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Chapter 1
Military Thought


Scientific Approach to War
Modern Battlefield
Military Art
Concentration of Main Effort
Information Warfare
Preservation of Combat Effectiveness
Effective Coordination

Opposing Force (OPFOR) planners have developed a scientific approach to the study of war, that includes comprehensive analysis of all aspects of human activity applied to war. This approach plays an important unifying role within the OPFOR's military structure and provides a framework for systematizing and categorizing everything. The ultimate goal is to understand and exploit the dynamics of war.

The OPFOR defines military terms such as war, armed conflict, military doctrine, military science, military art, strategy, operational art, and tactics. To understand OPFOR military thinking, we must know the vocabulary and the conceptual framework of OPFOR military theory and practice. (See Figure 1-1.) This chapter includes definitions of basic OPFOR military terminology; outlines the basic theories and doctrine espoused by the OPFOR; and discusses key concepts that strongly influence the application of OPFOR military thought.

Figure 1-1. Hierarchy of OPFOR military thought.


OPFOR theorists differentiate between war and armed conflict; war is the more comprehensive of the two. The OPFOR concept of war is much broader than our own. It involves the entire country and affects all aspects of life and society. War includes economic, diplomatic, ideological, scientific, and technological variables, in addition to armed conflict. The OPFOR might draw from all of these variables to achieve political and military victory in war. Management of the war effort resides with political leadership.

The OPFOR sees armed conflict as the principle form of struggle in war. However, it can also exist in the absence of a general state of war. Armed conflict is the aggregate of military actions conducted to attain both military and political strategic goals. It relates primarily to combat activities by armed forces; thus, it falls under the management of military leaders.

Scientific Approach to War

The OPFOR believes there are objective "laws" that determine the cause and outcome of a war or armed conflict. Although these laws are objective, they are subject to different interpretations. The subjective interpretations of these laws comprise the principles of military art.

The OPFOR's scientific approach to war and armed conflict depends heavily on its calculations of the correlation of forces (COF). The COF is an objective calculation of the quantitative and qualitative capabilities of the opposing sides; its purpose is to determine the degree of superiority of one side over the other. At the strategic level, political and military theorists may use a concept called the "international correlation of forces" to compare the relative strengths of potential enemies. This strategic net assessment would involve the military, economic, scientific-technical, political, moral, and psychological status and potential of each side.

At the operational level, the focus narrows to a calculation of the quantitative and qualitative comparison of weapons, morale, materiel, and the combat situation. At both

levels, the COF is a practical tool for determining the likelihood of victory or defeat in war and armed conflict. With it, planners attempt to quantify the existing or future situation in terms of the laws of war and conflict. Thus, it is a key decision aid for the OPFOR.

Modern Battlefield

Smaller but more lethal armies fight on the modern battlefield. Precision weapons, high-speed maneuver platforms, information warfare, and battlefield automation impact how the OPFOR fights. Flexibility is increasingly important on the fast-paced, fragmented battlefield of today. Thus, the OPFOR attaches more importance to joint operations and to a continuous, multidimensional combined arms approach to the conduct of warfare.


Military doctrine is the State's officially accepted system of views on the nature of war and the use of the armed forces. Formulating military doctrine is a continuous and evolutionary process. The OPFOR bases doctrine on the following:

  • Political ideology.
  • National security interests.
  • Threat perceptions.
  • Foreign policy.
  • Economic and military strengths.
  • Resources and geography.
  • History.
  • Science, and technology.

Military doctrine has two closely linked aspects: the political and the military.

The political aspect of military doctrine reflects political aims of the State, in addition to security interests and threat perceptions. The State's political leadership determines the political objectives reflected in military doctrine. Once handed down by the political leadership, doctrine is not open to debate; it has the weight of law.

The military aspect of doctrine conforms to the State's political aims. It encompasses the following elements that directly pertain to the OPFOR:

  • Organizational development.
  • Training.
  • Combat readiness.
  • Equipment types and numbers.
  • Development of military art.
  • Improvements in command and control (C2).
  • Research and development priorities.

Evolutionary change in the OPFOR's military doctrine is a continuous process. The impetus for such change is often emerging technologies, changing national security interests, or foreign policy goals.


The OPFOR defines military science as a system of knowledge concerning the nature, essence, and content of armed conflict. It studies and analyzes the manpower, facilities, and methods for conducting operations by means of armed forces. Its purpose is to develop practical recommendations for victory in war.

Military doctrine and military science are fundamentally interrelated and interdependent. OPFOR military doctrine governs the nature of war, and the means for prosecuting such a war. Military science examines all military affairs--past, present, and future--and it categorizes military knowledge along functional lines into various components. These components are military art, organization, geography, history, training and education, economics, and command and control. Although all theories are important, the OPFOR regards the theory and practice of military art as the preeminent component of military science.

Military Art

Military art is the theory and practice of preparing for and conducting military actions on land, sea, in the air, and increasingly, in space. During wartime, military art implements doctrine. The components of military art normally relate to a specific level of combat activity:

  • Military strategy (national- and theater-level).
  • Operational art (army group-, army-, and corps-level).
  • Tactics (division-level and below).

The OPFOR considers these components interconnected, interdependent, and mutually conditioned. They supplement each other. Among the three, strategy plays the predominant role.

The principles of military art are the basic guidelines for organizing and conducting battles, operations, and war as a whole. Lists of principles can vary from broad guides for action to achieve victory in war or operations to more specific recommendations for victory in battle. Among these principles are--

  • High combat readiness.
  • Surprise.
  • Aggressiveness and decisiveness.
  • Persistence and initiative.
  • Combined arms coordination and joint operations.
  • Decisive concentration of forces.
  • Deep battle or deep operations.
  • Information warfare.
  • Exploitation of moral-political factors.
  • Firm and continuous command and control.
  • Comprehensive combat support.
  • Timely restoration of reserves and combat potential.

These principles are idealistic. They show what the OPFOR would like to do, but not, in all cases, what it might be capable of doing. Thus, they apply in varying degrees of importance to strategy, operational art, and tactics. There are also particular principles that apply to each level alone.

Military Strategy

Military strategy is the highest component of military art. It concerns both the theory and practice of preparing the nation and armed forces for war, as well as the planning and conduct of strategic operations and of war as a whole. The theoretical side of strategy studies the laws and character of war and methods for conducting it. In the applied sense, military strategy determines the strategic missions of the armed forces and the necessary forces to achieve these missions. Within the OPFOR C2 structure, the Ministry of Defense and General Staff are responsible for developing military strategy. All State ministries and military organizations work under a unified military strategy.

Operational Art

Operational art concerns the theory and practice of preparing for and conducting combined and independent operations by OPFOR army groups, armies, or corps. It is the connecting link between strategy and tactics. On the basis of strategic requirements, operational art determines effective methods of using available military resources to achieve strategic goals. Consequently, plans developed from operational art determine tactical actions.


Tactics is the theory and practice of employing available means to win battles at division level and lower. To determine how best to employ forces, tacticians study the laws of combined arms combat. Because tactics relates directly to combat, specific tactical principles relate to each type of unit, weapon, and situation.

Although tactics may change rapidly to conform with changes in weaponry, it is inseparably linked with other components of military art--strategy and operational art. It is subordinate to operational art and strategy and must achieve the goals set by operational art in the interests of strategy.(For more information on OPFOR tactics, see FM 100-62.)


Separating OPFOR tactics from operational art is often difficult; maneuver divisions are the tactical maneuver elements that achieve the operational missions of army groups, armies, and corps. The overriding goal of the combined arms offensive is to turn tactical success into operational success using a well-orchestrated combination of massive fire, maneuver, and deep, violent strikes. Similarly, tactical and operational successes contribute to the accomplishment of strategic tasks.

Divisions fight battles; armies and corps conduct operations. First-echelon divisions usually pursue tactical missions in the enemy's tactical depth; armies and corps, normally using their second-echelon divisions (or separate brigades), must achieve operational missions in the enemy's operational depth. (See Figure 1-2.)

Figure 1-2. Tactical, operational, and strategic battlefield depths.


Operational art is not simply a matter of moving forces to seek out the enemy and engage him in combat; it is using maneuver to defeat the enemy. Operational art deals with--

  • Disrupting the enemy's cohesion on a large scale.
  • Depriving him of the ability to react effectively to changes in the situation.
  • Breaking up his organization and control of large formations (corps and above).

The physical destruction of the enemy is the ultimate goal of any operation. The OPFOR has developed several principles of operational art to help achieve this goal.

The OPFOR principles of operational art do not differ significantly from the published principles of other armies, nor are they constant. A major technological development, such as a shift in doctrine and/or military strategy, can prompt a corresponding change in the principles of operational art. The principles that currently govern the OPFOR's approach to operational art will almost certainly continue to change as a result of technological, political, and economic developments.


Mobility of combat forces facilitates the success of any battle or operation. The spatial scope of modern operations, the absence of solid and contiguous fronts, and the depth of the modern battlefield demand mobility. A high degree of mobility enables forces to use combat power with maximum effect at the decisive time and place on the battlefield.


Speed of advance is an important principle, with high rates of advance regarded as an indicator of success. Modern warfare requires great emphasis on the speed and timing of operations. The more rapid the advance, the more difficult it becomes for the enemy to halt the movement. Controlling or altering the rate of advance is critical to maintaining the initiative.

Fast-moving, maneuver-dominated operations complicate the principle of speed and the logistics support that it demands. Rear areas have no clearly defined safe boundaries Thus, the OPFOR has developed a logistics system designed to address this problem.


Success in battle goes to the side that conducts itself more actively and resolutely. The goals of a campaign or battle and the methods devised for their attainment must reflect initiative. The success of these plans rests with the ability of commanders at all levels to make bold decisions, then implement those decisions. It is possible to overcome a position of relative operational inferiority by creating conditions of local superiority through initiative.

A rapid advance is of crucial importance in achieving success on the battlefield. It can prevent the enemy's recovery from surprise and stop him from regaining his balance. The goal is to keep the momentum firmly in OPFOR hands, thus negating the advantages which terrain and modern weapons technology would normally give to a stable defense. The OPFOR can--

  • Split the enemy defense into isolated, demoralized fragments.
  • Disrupt enemy C2.
  • Paralyze the will of enemy commanders.
  • Make organized resistance impossible.


Even the best developed plans can and do go wrong in war. Commanders must remain flexible, prepared to alter missions and groupings to meet the inevitable unexpected and achieve the overall operational goal. Thus, great emphasis is on commanders and their staffs reacting quickly and remaining flexible in their reaction to developments. To facilitate flexibility, commands are being structured and deployed to react quickly and appropriately to changing situations.

Concentration of Main Effort

A formation that dissipates its forces equally across the entire frontage can not achieve victory; this is equally true of the offense and the defense. Concentration of the main effort at the decisive time and place on the battlefield is critical to success. In the offense, attacking commanders must overcome the effects of modern technology and the modern battlefield by manipulating their concentration of forces, as well as the enemy's. Commanders should designate the main attack, allocate or focus the forces to support it, and conceal this attack until it is too late for the enemy to react. In the defense, commanders must counter the enemy's main attack by focusing combat support assets without massing maneuver assets.

Just as conventional force concentrations were unacceptable in the face of an enemy prepared to destroy them with nuclear weapons, so they will be even more unacceptable in the face of precision weapons. This, too, puts a premium on surprise and preemption. Concentration now exists more in the massing of strikes by dispersed reconnaissance-strike and -fire complexes, rather than the physical massing of forces.


Surprise may be strategic, operational, or tactical. The classification depends on the scale, the quantity of forces and equipment involved, and the results achieved. Distinguishing between the types of surprise is difficult. They are linked and interdependent. Experience shows that surprise is harder to achieve as the scale of combat increases. Concealing one's intentions from the enemy becomes more difficult with increased personnel and equipment.

Still, an OPFOR commander's use of unexpected timing, direction, or forces can catch the enemy unprepared. Denying the enemy the ability to conduct good intelligence operations is critical to this effort. OPFOR commanders believe it is realistic at the operational level to conceal not only the scope of the operation, but the location of the main attack and time it will begin. Surprise delivers victory as a result of timing, boldness, and concentration of forces masked by feints, ruses, demonstrations, and false communications.

Information Warfare

Information and communications technologies have grown exponentially in recent years. Cellular and satellite communications, personal computers, and the Internet are a few examples of the capabilities widely available to nations, as well as independent organizations and individuals. The ability to communicate, access, and transfer information freely is forcing political and military leaders to rethink information handling and control methods. The OPFOR is addressing this issue through the development of the doctrine of Information Warfare (IW).

The OPFOR defines IW as specifically planned and integrated actions taken to achieve an information advantage at critical points and times. IW includes an offensive element, as well as defensive, protective measures. The goal is to influence an enemy's information processes and systems while retaining the ability to employ OPFOR information processes and systems. The OPFOR knows that it cannot maintain gain information superiority at all times and in all places. It will select only those assets for disruption that are most critical to the success of the OPFOR effort.

The creation of a single, integrated doctrine for the control of information is not a new concept to the OPFOR. The doctrine of electronic combat has long consisted of an integrated approach to attacking the enemy's command and control structure. However, recent changes in two major areas have made a great impact on electronic combat operations. First is the explosion in the use of computers and information handling systems for military applications. Second, non-military competition between nations has increased awareness of the vulnerabilities of industrial and business infrastructures and information systems.

OPFOR information warfare doctrine consists of six elements:

  1. Protection and security measures.
  2. Deception.
  3. Electromagnetic spectrum operations.
  4. Perception management.
  5. Destruction.
  6. Computer Warfare.

There may be significant overlap among the six elements, depending upon the mission or goal.

Preservation of Combat Effectiveness

Preservation of combat effectiveness has always been an important principle. However, it is becoming more difficult to realize as war becomes more complex and destructive. In the course of operations, the force's combat effectiveness must stay at a level that enables accomplishment of the mission. Measures for preserving combat effectiveness fall into three groups:

  • Protection against weapons of high destructive potential.
  • Maintenance of combat readiness.
  • Restoration of combat effectiveness.

The OPFOR believes that the best way to maintain combat effectiveness is to adhere strictly to the principle of surprise. A surprise, in-depth offensive pursued at a high tempo without let-up should prevent the enemy from establishing a well-organized defense.

Effective Coordination

Success can occur only through the coordinated efforts of all the forces participating in an operation. This coordinated effort depends on effective and reliable C2. Commanders must closely coordinate the combat roles of many diverse elements to ensure the mutual support of all elements involved in the operation.

Detailed plans and rehearsals ensure that each element fully understands its mission relative to the overall operation. To this end, the OPFOR has created a doctrine integrating all forces into a cohesive, coordinated war effort.

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