View Full Version : Swarming

26 Feb 04, 21:05
Any of you guys ever read anything on a "swarming" doctrine? There was an interesting discussion on tanknet, so I downloaded a study from RAND on it.

For those who don't know, basically it advocates autonomous units operating in a geographic area that can attack an enemy unit/formation from multiple sides at one time. RAND argues that due to increased technology, particularly in the areas of situational awareness and mobility, this might be a doctrine to think about. They also believe it could only be used in certain types of operations -- counterinsurgency, stability, rapid deployment and one more I forget right now.

After reading the report, I'm not really buying it, but would be interested in hearing your thoughts on it. They have a couple of additional reports I may take a look at and claim the Marine Corps is looking at it for urban warfare.

I'd also be interested in hearing if you think it would be possible to test the doctrine through ATF.

Take care,

Ivan Rapkinov
26 Feb 04, 21:24
is this an expansion of "vertical envelopment" theory?

26 Feb 04, 22:12
No, not really. Though I'm too familiar with vertical envelopment theory...just printed some research off on it and will read it soon.

Under the swarm doctrine, there would be no centralized base of operations. Each unit would be completely autonomous. One historical example they provided was Somalia, where the Somali's were basically autonomous groups of fighters attacking from all directions with limited, if any, overall command.

I think what RAND argues is that in a counterinsurgency operation like Afghanistan, US Forces would have several units (could be platoon or company or something else depending on the situation) operating independently within a specific geographic area. Once enemy forces were identified, the location would be given and all groups within range would attack from different directions at the same time. The technology would be used to identify and coordinate the attack. It's based on RAND's "Netwar" theory, which I don't know much about, but was mentioned in the Swarming report.

Another historical example used in the study was the wolfpack submarine tactics the Germans employed in WWII.

27 Feb 04, 15:37
Netwar basically describes the use of technology to create and maintain highly decentralized organizations. Criminal organizations, terrorists, and social activist have taken advantage of the technology age to expand their cause and enhance coordination without forming centralized hierarchies, which are vulnerable. They can also be united by a single story, instead of defined cause.

Example: American terrorists who blames internationalism for corrupting America could work with Al-Qaeda operatives to mount a coordinated attack both US soil and American interest abroad (swarming attack). On the outside niether group have anything in common. However, they are united by a similar story. The isolationists want America to be out of international affairs, and Al-Qaeda wants the US out of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.

An actual example of netwar is some of the violence seen at WTO meetings. When they met in Australia in 2002, activist were putting up websites that provided advice for causing chaos. One site that sticks out of my mind had diagrams and detailed instructions for disabling or killing police horses, among other things to threaten the mobility of law enforcement to respond to violent disruptions. Fortunately, the police surf the net too, and liasoned with law enforcement all over to develop very detailed plan to keep the peace.

Another example is the Colombia and Mexican Narcotics operations. After we took out the powerful cartels, groups like FARC began to contract out the various jobs. They provided security and workers. Another group gets to one leg closer to the US using their own contacts. A second group takes it another leg, etc....... until it arrives in the US, where another entity takes over distribution. They use the internet, and other forms of communication to coordinate their operations making it very difficult to counter. The Cali Cartel used something like two or three routes to get drugs into the US. Today, they drug runners are using close to a dozen. We have been able to create chokepoints, but we only have so many fingers (thanks to not expanding the capability of the Coast Guard).

Swarming as a military tactic has been employed at many levels of combat. I don't recall reading the RAND proposal. I'll go look for it tonight. However, I believe most Armies have already achieved a greater degree of decentral-ization. Of course, with decentralization comes the risk of loosing situational awareness, among other things. Relying on a purpose to unite platoons and companies instead of a commander can be a tad bit dangerous.

If you want to test swarming attacks in ATF, detach all platoons, give some orders, and start the clock. Do not interfere with the them at all until the game is complete. I believe this might go beyond the RAND theory, but it will give you an ideal of just how important a little centralization can be in battle.

27 Feb 04, 21:37
In case you're interested, here's a link to the study I read. It's a free download.


Take care,