Military Review

Between reform and revolution in military affairs

Between reform and revolution in military affairs

Machine gun influenced the course of the First World War. 1914 Photo of the Year

On the pages of specialized publications, both in the United States and in Europe, for a relatively long period of time there is a lively discussion about what lessons from past reforms of the Armed Forces should be drawn so as not to repeat the allegedly inevitable mistakes in the future. At the same time, the natural connection between the ongoing reforms and, which is a prerequisite for the success of the transformation, the “revolution in military affairs” is emphasized.

The term “revolution in military affairs”, as is known, is not today's or even yesterday’s invention of inquisitive minds, including in the West to designate the related processes in the technical (technological), doctrinal and organizational areas leading ultimately to the cardinal changes in the forms and methods of warfare and military conflicts. Foreign experts pay attention to the fact that periodically recurring epochal "revolutionary" changes in stories wars occurred constantly, at least for the last 4 thousand years - from the appearance of the chariot to the nuclear weapons.

With the adoption of weapons of mass destruction in the advanced armies of the world of weapons of mass destruction, of course, scientific and technical progress did not stop. The first signs of another revolution in military affairs (RVD), according to Western theorists, were revealed as early as the middle of the 80-s of the last century by Marshal of the Soviet Union Nikolai Ogarkov and his associates.

It was they who first drew attention to the importance of advanced non-nuclear technologies for future wars, which gave impetus to large-scale scientific research in theory, production and use of various types of weapons and military equipment, which promised fundamental changes not only in the nature of the confrontation on the battlefield , but also in the mentality of the military - from a soldier to a general. These ideas, which were publicized, were quickly picked up in the West, including by American military theorists, who promptly published a number of fundamental research in this area already in the 90-ies: they described in detail and analyzed the distinctive features of the current the development of combat control systems, communications, computer software, intelligence with the delivery of fundamentally new high-precision ammunition with operational concepts, including the so-called information nnuyu war, autonomous actions of compact special forces and "combined" (interspecific) operation, lightning covering the territory of the enemy on all its depth. But this, as some of the most advanced researchers believe, is not enough to understand how the WFD “works” and how to benefit from it in a timely manner so that the planned or already implemented reform of the Armed Forces, as they say, “does not choke”. For this, the researchers continue their thought, there is a reason to refer to the previous RVD and make some generalizations.


So, the fact that a party who skillfully and in time took advantage of the fruits of the WFD immediately gains advantages on the battlefield is not subject to discussion. So, Winston Churchill, in one of his works, written in the twilight of years, gives an example of how the British, who used gigantic and, consequently, powerful and long-range bows in a battle with the French at Chrisy in 1346, achieved the effect of surprise and thereby secured themselves victory over the traditional opponent. Of the most prominent (in their opinion), Western analysts refer to examples related, in particular, with the use of machine guns by the British against the Zulus in the battle of Aland in Natal in 1879, or with the concept of blitzkrieg, used by the Germans against the Poles in 1939, French-British in 1940 and Russians in 1941.

American analysts have noticed the fact that the RVD, with rare exceptions, is initiated by a non-dominant player in the military sphere. An example is the passivity of the British and French theorists of ground combat operations in the period between the two world wars, who missed the jerk of their colleagues from defeated Germany the day before. Similarly, the naval theorists of the "mistress of the seas" of Great Britain at the same time did not understand the concept of the so-called carrier warfare, which succeeded the formal military outsiders of the time - the Americans and the Japanese.

As for the machine gun example, Western researchers at the same time conclude that often for the first time the fruits of the WFD are successfully used for themselves not on the side where the “revolutionary” invention was implemented. It is known that the United States, in which a machine gun was born, is the birthplace of these small arms. At first, the Americans underestimated their national invention. The Germans, in September 1914, it was thanks to the heavy fire of machine guns that they managed to stop the advance of the Allies and essentially lay the foundation for the so-called trench warfare. Similarly, the British, who first applied Tanks during the Battle of the Somme on September 15, 1916, they still did not fully understand what advantages this formidable weapon promises in the future.

Experience shows that the greatest effect should be expected from the totality of the fruits of the RVD, and not from one, albeit a significant achievement. The success of the German blitzkrieg was ensured by the use of a combination of three technical achievements - a tank, a radio station and a diving bomber.
The process of revolutionary transformations from any outstanding invention to its implementation as a rule takes a relatively long period of time. For example, the US Navy began experimenting with sea-based aircraft in the 1910 year, and used aircraft carrier units on a large scale only in the 1942 year. The Germans began to experiment with tanks in the early 20-ies of the last century, and only twenty years later realized these experiments in a blitzkrieg.

Technical fruits of RVD do not necessarily mean the invention of a new weapon. The American researcher from the RAND analytical corporation Richard Handley refers to the widespread use of railways in Europe for the rapid movement of troops that began in 30 - 50 of the 19th century, which made a revolution in strategic mobility. This was first demonstrated by the French, who quickly deployed around 250 thousands of troops to Northern Italy during the war with the Austrians in 1859. A little later, this phenomenon was repeatedly repeated by the opposing sides during the American Civil War and during the Franco-Prussian war.

The embodiment of the fruits of the WFD is not always unambiguously perceived by specialists until their significance is confirmed on the battlefield. For example, British and French generals continued to express doubt over the value of machine guns in the European Theater for many years, until the high effectiveness of machine gun fire was proved in practice by the Germans. It is noteworthy that not only representatives of the British and French generals, but also partially their colleagues in Germany themselves were not sure of the effectiveness and possibility of a blitzkrieg until Guderian's tanks made a breakthrough in defense at Sedan on May 13-14 and by May 20, 1940 they had not yet reached English Channel. Many American admirals until the battle at Midway Atoll in June 1942 also continued to doubt the strike capabilities of the carrier aviation.


The lack of an operational concept for the application of a new technical invention negates the fruits of the engineers-inventors. Again, turn to the machine gun. Despite the proven practicality of this weapon, by the beginning of the last third of the XIX century, the militarily advanced powers of Europe had not figured out how to use it effectively. In the battles of Weissemburg and Spichern in the course of the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, the French used machine guns fixed on gun carriages along with artillery for indirect fire. But the Prussians covered the position of the French with fire of their artillery even before they could use, as they thought, an ingenious invention. Until the Russian-Japanese war of 1904 – 1905, during which both sides finally appreciated the advantages of machine guns as weapons for the mass destruction of infantry, the Europeans could not understand what to do with them.

Even the existence or prerequisites of a new operational concept does not guarantee overall success in battle, if it does not fit, as the Anglo-Saxons say, into the prevailing military culture of this subject of international relations. Once again, the example with machine guns, which leads the American researcher John Ellis. So, in his opinion, the British, who repeatedly used these weapons against the "savages" in Africa, as a result of which thousands of Aborigines died, considered it impossible to use this "inhumane weapons" in Europe, for which the war in the areas of which they had been intensively preparing since the end of XIX century. The purely British phenomenon of “gentleman officers” allegedly did not allow them to even think about developing a new structure or organization of troops for these weapons.

The inevitability of the arrival of a new operational concept is not a panacea for translating the achievements of the WFD into life if a structural or organizational base has not been created for it. Another example from the British military history, which cites the mentioned Richard Handley. After the end of the First World War, ideas about a powerful tank potential and, in this connection, the inevitable “revolutionization” of a land war, were intensively discussed in the British military-scientific establishment. However, the British leadership considered it superfluous to restructure its SV under the clearly manifested advantages of independent tank formations, since this allegedly did not fit into the traditional structure of the British army and was fraught with huge financial costs.

Another negative example, caused by other reasons, is indicative. On the other side of the Channel, that is, in France, they also could not help but think about the potential of tanks, and in the French specialized press, the consequences of mass adoption of armored vehicles were vigorously discussed. Nevertheless, the main argument of the non-acceptance by the French of the idea of ​​deep tank raids was the unacceptability of the gigantic losses that are inevitable with offensive doctrine. In essence, the military doctrine developed in 20 and 30 in Paris tended to become and in fact became purely defensive, in which tanks, and even less offensive tank breakthroughs, did not appear.


We can really say that the WFD took place when all three components of its component - technology (technical inventions), doctrine (operational concepts) and organization (structure of forces) - are implemented together. To illustrate this dogma again, an example with a blitzkrieg. Implemented new technologies (tank, radio, dive bomber), along with a new operational concept (breakthrough of highly mobile armored forces to the enemy rear), multiplied by the same structure of troops (tank division), brought the desired result - the defeat of the enemy. In contrast, an illustration of a negative example. The French, who had a greater number and, according to some estimates, were qualitatively the best tanks, distributed them more or less evenly among all the ground forces and used the infantry as mobile fire support. In the interwar period, the Americans also viewed tanks as a means of direct fire support for infantry, as a result of which they equipped them with low-rate fire with which they entered World War II. On the other hand, a combination of technologies (the ability of planes to take off and land on the deck of an aircraft carrier ship), operational concepts (testing methods of using aviation for direct confrontation with the enemy's Navy at long distances beyond the reach of its fire and the concentration of strikes on its aircraft carriers) (powerful multipurpose carrier strike groups - AUG) allowed the United States to finally win the Pacific Theater of War.

Information from the satellite today has become an indispensable condition for success in battle. Reuters Photos

And yet, for the sake of truth, it is impossible not to emphasize the fact that managers have, on whose decisions depends the embodiment of the achievements of the WFD, a subjective factor, namely, inertia of thinking and simply trivial reinsurance. True, sometimes the subjective factor plays a positive role. The Germans, despite the positive results of the exercises and experiments with the later-proposed “tank genius” Guderian of the new organization of the division, entered World War II with the ground forces, having a relatively small number of tank formations. During the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, the German forces included only six tank divisions, four light tank divisions and old-style 48 infantry formations. With the invasion of 1940 in the Netherlands, Belgium and France - 10 armored divisions and 126 obsolete infantry. The Americans, who began to form the AUG in the second half of 30, were simply lucky that the new president Franklin Roosevelt, always sympathetic to sailors, personally “sold” substantial funds to the naval forces, including naval aviation, from the defense budget of the country.

It is impossible not to underline the fact that, in the opinion of the same overseas specialists, the ratio of real and imaginary RVDs, determined on the basis of the so-called revolutionary fruits unrealized on the battlefield, in particular, technical inventions, is approximately equal. The examples are usually the nuclear power plant for aircraft that failed to go into the series, the failures with the development of electromagnetic guns, the long-term and so far unsuccessful attempts to create laser weapons, and some others. It’s not at all necessary to talk about the “non-life” of the overwhelming majority of constantly put forward revolutionary concepts of warfare, proposals for improved organization of the formations and, all the more so, about a radical restructuring of troops (forces).


Western experts in the field of military reforms pay special attention to the need for timely, and sometimes, if possible, preemptive opening of the so-called military-technical breakthroughs in the creation of "revolutionary" technical means and technologies, which in most cases ensure the success of the WFD as a whole.

The main task for the "monitoring" of this sphere abroad is assigned to the military-technical intelligence units, which are in the structures of almost all of the many special services of the West, and especially in the United States. At one time, the fact that Washington and London (and later with the capabilities of their allies connected) Operation Echelon, made a total, world-wide listening to communication channels, networks and selection of information of the leadership of these states, became publicly known in the military-technical field. This operation, begun in the early years of the Cold War, has recently, as evidenced by the scandal around the US security services defector Edward Snowden, “transformed” into an even more global operation PRISM, which took the communications network under the hood countries implementing it.

But this, according to American theorists of military reforms, is not enough. Signs indicating the beginning of the next phase of the WFD allegedly cannot but leak into the “open” media, both paper and electronic. Information from which, in this regard, requires a daily and comprehensive analysis, not only by the special services, but also by the relevant interested structures (corporations, firms). Moreover, the ratio between the open and closed sources of information used in the work of even the special services, according to Western experts, is nine to one.

There is also a high probability of the manifestation of primarily technical advances that provide for WFDs in the open and especially closed (illegal) world arms market, including specialized exhibitions. At the same time, the likelihood of “indicating” the first signs of the coming RVD as attempts by military outsiders to promote or, to put it more simply, offer their own, sometimes noteworthy, developments in open or closed “political platforms” (various forums, conferences) to extract extraordinary profits is not excluded. , but more often - to cause damage (both political and military-economic) to its more powerful competitors or geopolitical opponents.

In this case, it should be borne in mind that the subjects of international relations interested in eliminating competitors (opponents) will strive first of all to publicly and convincingly discredit these achievements, resorting to all sorts of means and methods, although it is possible that the key to any military technical discovery (or breakthrough).

Western experts also warn against peremptory confidence in the opinions of people often obsessed with a certain area of ​​knowledge of authorities. In the book Experts Speak, published in 1984, the authors cite a number of illustrative examples. So, Lord Kelvin, a world-renowned mathematician and physicist, president of the British Royal Society, said in the 1895 year: “Machines that are heavier than air cannot fly!” Wilbur Wright instructed his brother Orville in the year 1901: "Man will not fly for another fifty years!" Garry Warner, president of the Warner Brothers Pictures cinema corporation, indignantly objected to his opponents in 1927: "What the hell should the actors say from the screen!" Ken Olson, President of Digital Equipment Corporation, confidently emphasized in 1977: “There is no reason for anyone to have a computer at home!”

Moreover, the same authors “dug up” a number of examples of how well-known authorities from the military field predicted the future in their field. Let us give some illustrative examples. From the statement of the representative of the Department of Armaments of the Army of France to members of Parliament in 1910: “Do not be mistaken: machine guns will not change anything on the battlefield!”. Assistant US Secretary of the Navy, future President Franklin Roosevelt said in 1922 year: "Apparently, neither the plane, nor even the mass of aircraft can never sink a ship in combat conditions!" From a statement in 1939, by Marshal Henri Petain, a former military minister of France and the commander-in-chief of the French army: “As for tanks, whose alleged role is decisive in a future war, some people try to convince us, there is no doubt that they are completely inconsistent!” in the same year, another French authority, representative of the French army, General Georges: “There is no doubt that German tanks will be destroyed immediately after breaking through our front line of trenches!” From a statement by US Navy Secretary Frank Knox 4 December 1941, on the eve of the Pearl Harbor tragedy: “Nothing happens, our Navy will not be caught off guard!” Commentary on 1945, adviser to President Harry Truman, Admiral William Leahy about the prospects for a nuclear project: “This is the dumbest thing we have ever been did ... This bomb is never useful. I declare it as an expert in the field of explosives! ”As they say, no comment.

These paradoxical statements, disorienting not only the average man, but also representatives of the instances who develop and make decisions, according to Richard Handley, can be avoided by combining the efforts of professional analysts who totally trace information and look for signs of an “impending RVD” with the opinion of prominent scientific scientists in relevant field. The best way out of the current situation may be the variant in which both intellectual processes are taken “under the wing” in one organization. The same Handley believes that the sufficiently well-known, including in our country, the Office of Advanced Studies of the United States Department of Defense (DARPA) is an organization whose staff can give correct assessments of what is happening and are able to “look beyond the horizon”.

Naturally, one organization, even specially focused on the desired goal, is not able to ensure the promotion of the WFD. For this, and in other, as they say, participatory instances or organizations should be formed, as emphasized by the American researcher Rosen, a peculiar creative climate that promotes the disclosure of talents, including pragmatic-minded youth. Much depends on who leads this organization or, at least, the project. For example, in Germany, limited in its military formation after the First World War with the articles of the Versailles Treaty, the head of the Land Forces, Colonel-General Hans von Sekt, assumed the role of initiator of the revival of German power at the beginning of the 20-s of the last century which belongs to the original idea of ​​the priority of tanks in the formed Reichswehr. In the United States, during the same period, two admirals, William two - Sims (President of the Naval College in 1917 – 1922) and Moffet (Director of the Naval Aeronautics Bureau in 1921 – 1933) took up the initiative in launching the idea of ​​a carrier war.


An important factor in ensuring the creative freedom of the collective of an organization is the patronage of higher instances. So, if you return to the American experience in the interwar period, it is known that the mentioned admirals, who were passionate about aircraft carriers, were helped by many influential politicians and military leaders of the country, although up to the end of the 30s, the advancement of maritime aviators and getting them the highest officer ranks was very difficult.

The situation was even worse in the US Army. Here, ideas about changing approaches to the conduct of ground operations with the broad involvement of tanks and aircraft were met with tough resistance from the authorities. There are examples of the fact that the future American commanders of World War II, Eisenhower and Paton, were generally recommended to abandon their plans with tanks if they want to get the rank of major.

“Freedom of creativity” often faces a contradiction, which consists in the “inadequacy of initiative research” of the overall competence of the organization in which they are carried out. That is why it is important to protect the higher authorities. This “inadequacy” is associated with logistical difficulties, which are unavoidable in sometimes unscheduled work on opening a new problem, studying related information materials, and subsequent testing of the created sample and experiments with it.

One might get the impression that experiments (and not only with technology) with “meaningful” results always precede “revolutionary changes” in the doctrine or, at least, in the concepts of warfare. However, this is not always the case. American theorists of military reform claim that the aforementioned Admiral Sims, who led the US Naval College, and his like-minded people "lit up" the idea of ​​"carrier war" even before acceptable sea-based aircraft were tested and their carriers were designed. So, they still in 1919 year, that is, a year or two before the experimental technical developments in the Bureau of Aeronautics, made plans for the exercises, which then formed the basis of the concept of aircraft warfare. Likewise, the German General von Sect and his assistants, as Handley stresses, thought of and theoretically substantiated the offensive concept of the Blitzkrieg even before its provisions were “enshrined” in various kinds of exercises and experiments with armored vehicles. Nevertheless, this in no way means that “experiments in the field” can be neglected.

“Turning over” the characteristics and characteristics of various manifestations of the WFD from a historical perspective, the prominent American military theorist Andrew Marshall makes a clear conclusion: the fruits of transformations in technology, doctrine or organization, regardless of the time of their appearance and prior to implementation, can be considered revolutionary only if they influence the forms and methods of conducting real hostilities. If, for example, aviation armed with high-precision munitions succeeds in stopping the attack of an enemy armored armada wide along the front and significant in depth of battle formations without a loss from a long distance, then this is RVD. If the use of “cyber weapons” without damage to the contact battle causes damage to the enemy, as a result of which he capitulates, this is the RVD. Answering the question posed to himself as to whether the current “revolution in military affairs”, which is so much spoken and written about, has been realized, he concludes: let's not rush to conclusions. In this regard, the impression that many people have of American successes in the course of military operations in Iraq in 1991 and 2003 as evidence of a realized RVD is deceptive. One thing is indisputable: manifestations of revolutionary changes in military affairs are obvious, and they cannot be ignored in the process of the reform of the Armed Forces.
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  1. Gorinich
    Gorinich 25 September 2013 11: 55
    "American analysts have noticed the fact that the WFD, with rare exceptions, is initiated by a non-dominant player in the military sphere at a given time." This is where everyone needs to draw their own conclusions ...
  2. slacker
    slacker 25 September 2013 12: 33
    Without the presence of a high military spirit in the army, no satellite images and highbrow programmers will have a decisive influence on the outcome of the battle.
    1. OffenroR
      OffenroR 26 September 2013 14: 54
      Quote: Loafer
      Without the presence of a high military spirit in the army, no satellite images and highbrow programmers will have a decisive influence on the outcome of the battle.

      They will be able ... to defeat the enemy's defense line with a non-contact battle (that is, the application of massive art and air strikes ....) And after that, even the Taliban with only Kalash will be able to finish off what remains of the "enemy grouping" ...

      PS Such a tactic could be used in Karabakh. Azerbaijan in the event of such a war will probably not be in a hurry ... And so, with minimal losses, you can achieve devastating success. Imagine the line of defense under the fire of the CBT and heavy RZSO ... Those who can be will remain after such a strike alive, to finish is not difficult. The only negative is We will burn and smash our own land ....
  3. Shesternyack
    Shesternyack 25 September 2013 14: 32
    ... And yet, for the sake of truth, it is impossible not to emphasize the fact that the leaders, on whose decisions the realization of the achievements of the WFD are realized, have a subjective factor, namely, the inertia of thinking and simply trivial reinsurance ...
    I recalled an old joke that generals always prepare for the past war wink
  4. Poppy
    Poppy 25 September 2013 14: 38
    this is where the Germans in the 14th stopped the Allied offensive with machine guns?
    actually the Germans were advancing on Paris
  5. cdrt
    cdrt 25 September 2013 21: 49
    Well, about how the Germans stopped the allies in 1914 with machine guns - probably we are talking about how the Germans stopped the flank counter strike of the allies during the German offensive :-))) - the final stage of the Battle of the Marne. Well, the "Run to the Sea" that followed, which ended largely thanks to machine-gun fire from the lines of trenches from the sea to the Alps.