“In war, the chief incalculable is the human will.”
Technological advances provided US forces with an asymmetric advantage and contributed significantly to American victories, most notably Operation Desert Storm. The “Big Five” provided ground forces with overwhelming firepower while Global Positioning System navigation provided precision for maneuvering on the battlefield. Through technological superiority, Army forces can provide national leaders with additional options, capture the initiative rapidly, and create multiple dilemmas for an adversary on the battlefield. However, technological superiority on its own, does not ensure that US forces will successfully achieve its strategic objectives. While advances in technology will remain vital to the Army, the Army recognizes that there are no "silver bullet" technological solutions. To retain overmatch, the Army combines and integrates technologies into organizational, doctrinal, leader development, training, and personnel policy changes.
This week’s Professional Reading is a TED talk by Malcolm Gladwell titled “the Strange Tale of the Norden Bombsight.” During his Ted Talk, Gladwell examines technology’s impact on warfare by analyzing the Norden bombsight. Before the development of Global Positioning Systems (GPS), radar, and advanced optics dropping a bomb on a stationary target from a flying aircraft provided a difficult physics problem. The world recognized the aircraft’s potential but wind, airspeed, altitude, temperature, and other factors complicated bombing efforts until Carl Norden, a Swiss engineer, developed the Mark 15 bombsight – the Norden bombsight. Before the development of the bombsight, Norden quipped that, “bombs would routinely miss their target by a mile or more” but, with the Mark 15 pilots “could drop a bomb into a pickle barrel at 20,000 ft."
After spending $1.5 Billion - the Manhattan Project cost $3 Billion – the Norden Bombsight failed to live up to expectations. Allied efforts to bomb the chemical plant in Leuna, Germany provides an example of the bombsight’s inaccuracy. After allies flew 22 missions and dropped 85,000 bombs on the 757 acre chemical plant only 10% hit their target. Gladwell outlines three primary reasons that the Norden Bombsight failed to provide the Allies with a decisive advantage:
- It was difficult to use.
- It broke down a lot.
- It was developed without consideration of wartime conditions.
Gladwell concludes his TED Talk by observing that “We live in a time where there are all kinds of really, really smart people running around, saying that they've invented gadgets that will forever change our world.” While new technologies, such as the Norden Bomb sight, may provide some utility, leaders must recognize that complex problems often require complex solutions. “This is the problem with our infatuation with the things we make,” Gladwell states, “We think the things we make can solve our problems, but our problems are much more complex than that.”
As the Army continues to develop the Multi-Domain Battle Concept and looks to industry to provide the capabilities required to execute Multi-Domain Battle in the future, leaders must recognize the limits of emerging technologies. New problems and new vulnerabilities often accompany the integration of new technologies. While the Army’s advantage over enemies depends in large measure on advanced technology, the Army will achieve success on the battlefield through skilled leaders and Soldiers that are enabled by technology. As you watch Gladwell’s TED talk on “the Strange Tale of the Norden Bombsight” consider how the Army should apply emerging technologies and the subsequent changes in doctrine, organizations, and training in order to retain combat effectiveness.
Click on the following link to watch the “The Strange Tale of the Norden Bombsight” TED Talk by Malcolm Gladwell: https://www.ted.com/talks/malcolm_gladwell
To learn more about Multi-Domain Battle and contribute to conversation, access the following link: http://www.tradoc.army.mil/MultiDomainBattle/index.asp
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