April 19, 2004

The Kill Ratio 

Military science is not a new discipline: in China, some 3000 years ago, Sun Tzu (or Zu, or Tzi...) wrote a book about it. Later on, Greek and Roman scholars did the same job. Machiavelli wrote "The Art of War", and finally Clausewitz, more or less 150 years ago, in his "On War" set the standard for the modern war.

One of the fundamental concepts is the "Kill Ratio": how many of them die for each one of us? How many are injured? How many tanks, or APCs, or planes do they lose for each one of us?
It's obviuos that the side with the most favourable kill ratio will win, if they will keep on fighting long enough, because the other side will become an uneffective combat force, or will be exterminated.

Does it sound cyinic? Well, nothing in war is nice, neither fair. And the most important thing about a war is to win it, and completely defeat the enemy so that they will not rise again.

Interdiction (the destruction of production facilities, deposits and supply lines) has a very high kill ratio, and moreover destroys equipment before it is fielded.
Guerrilla and terrorist war are less sensible to interdiction, because those are the combat doctrines of parties with poor logistics. In this case, a regular army must rely on the killing ratio in the field. And let's be clear on this point: although guerrillas are sanctified by some people (mainly Leftists) and considered almost invincible, a disciplined, trained, organized regular army, with a superior intelligence, communication, command and control structure will give hell to any guerrilla.
Because only a regular army can have the best and most modern weapons, and, even more important, can take full benefit from them: if a patrol comes under fire from ambushing militians, first they can fire back, being able to see better with night vision goggles and IR imagery. Second, they probably will have some awesome weapon (like this nasty toy), and they can use their field radios to call for reinforcements, which will come in APCs and will probably be equipped with more medium and heavy weapons (not to mention taks). Third, they can call for artillery fire (155 mm shells are not pebbles) and even aerial support, which can come in any form, from a ligthly armed recon chopper, to a fully loaded F/A-18 Hornet, or a dreadful AC-130 Spectre... I've even heard that bombers like B-1s can be used for those missions. Am I talking about US military? Of course; they're the most formidable battle machine in the world, and in the history. And when shells are incoming, or a Spectre is looming overhead, the guerrillas who don't want to die fighting can only cower and hope, or flee.

What we can usually read on newspapers, and hear on TV, is news like "Five US Soldiers die in Iraq", with little if any description of the circumstances. This gives a wrong idea of the actual kill ratio, and it seems that soldiers are dying without accomplishing anything. But, more accurate reports would give a different idea:

HUSAYBAH, Iraq— Lance Corp. Dustin Myshrall knew things were going to be bad from the moment he responded to the call for help from his fellow Marines. [...] In some of the fiercest fighting in recent weeks, five Marines were killed and dozens of Iraqi insurgents slain in a day-long battle Saturday. Marines beat back an offensive reportedly by hundreds of Iraqis from another area who had slipped into this city just 300 yards east of the Syrian border. [...] At least nine Marines were wounded and more than 20 Iraqi fighters were captured in a 14-hour battle that began around 8 a.m. (11 p.m. Friday St. Louis time) The Iraqi prisoners were taken to the Marines' main base, Camp Al Qaim, 22 miles east of here, for questioning.

The kill ratio is definitely favourable to the Coalition. Now, the victory is at hand if we have the will to win.

Update 21-04-04: with a quick calculation, it emerges that the kill ratio in Iraq is at least 10:1 in favour of the Coalition.

No, probably B-1s are not used for air support missions. But helicopter pilots, I've been told by ex-US Navy personnel, can be very creative: sometimes they carry onboard hand grenades and mortar rounds to drop on the enemy...


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