Thursday, June 28, 2007

Changing the Art of War

C-133 Members: Here is a book that you will all enjoy. It always amazes to read of those from humble backgrounds that do so much to create change. Much of such has been done by members of the USAF. Let me know how you like this reading and some of you may have known him.
"Boyd, The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War"
by Robert Corham
Little, Brown and Co. 2002
ISBN 0-316-88146-5

People from Pennsylvania are always proud of their heroes and they have had many throughout their history . United States Air Force Colonel John Richard Boyd(1927-1997) from Erie is one of them. Corham suggests Boyd “ the most influential military theorist since Sun Tzu.” Mostly unknown except to a small group that met every Wednesday night for over thirty years at the Officers Club at Fort Myer next to Washington, DC., this group was noted to be unsurpassed in America for their contribution to national defense.

Boyd served in W.W.II, Korea, and Vietnam and was known as “Forty Second Boyd” because of his ability to invert upon flight training opponents within 40 seconds. In 1960 Boyd completed his “Aerial Attack Study”, a manual which became the official tactics for fighter aircraft. After that he began more ground breaking work with his revolutionary “Energy-Maneuverability Theory”(E-M) which changed people’s fundamental understanding of aviation. E-M could quantify under combat conditions the performance of American aircraft, of “threat aircraft”, and could be used to design fighter aircraft. Corham notes Boyd as the father of the legendary A-10, F-15, and F-16.

Next came one of the few papers Boyd ever wrote, “Destruction and Creation”, 1976. Written in order to understand the thought processes he used when developing his E-M Theory, Corham calls it a window into Boyd’s mind. In order to more fully appreciate Corham’s biography of Boyd and Boyd himself, I recommend it be read first.

Corham now relates how Boyd turned to probably his most important work-a timed based theory of conflict-whoever can handle the quickest rate of change is the one who survives. Thus began what was to become Boyd’s most famous legacy: the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act cycle. Called the OODA Loop I recently found about 1500 references to it on the internet. The OODA Loop when properly used against an enemy causes panic and confusion , unraveling and disorientation before the battle begins; and, lastly, an unexpected lighting thrust . They rarely understand what has happened. The Marine Corps introduced the OODA Loop into combat operations before the USAF. This concept remains today as the basis for military operations.

For those interested in how one man can change the Pentagon’s view in waging warfare this is a must read. It is slow in the middle but perseverance pays the reader. I have had conversations with former Pentagon reporters from Boyd’s era who say Corham’s depiction of Boyd is accurate. They remember him as loud, profane, opinionated, confrontational, and unorthodox. Always ready to take on a defense contractor or a General. Another following in Boyd’s footsteps as an unorthodox military analysts from whom the Pentagon has taken intellectual cues is Thomas Barnett. He deserves your attention as well (reference earlier Post on June 25th on "Globalization").

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