Swarming Is Not A Panacea
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Swarming should be adapted, for appropriate missions, but is not a panacea. The challenge of modern combat is to find and fix the enemy. Once located, they can be destroyed, but they first must be found and held in place. In modern warfare, when one side has air superiority and has the location of a enemy force, it has more options for defeating that force. Swarming tactics are more limited when the forces are generally matched as to technology, especially if air superiority is contested, such as in the Falklands War.
One of the prerequisites for swarming is considerable autonomy for the manoeuvre units. Doctrine has been moving in the direction of mission-type tactics, as opposed to extremely specific directives giving no discretion to the junior commander, to multiply the effectiveness of forces. Originating from German pre-WWII concepts of Auftragstaktik, these tactics may be developing even more rapidly in the concept of network-centric warfare, where subordinate commanders receive information not only from their own commanders, but from adjacent units. Sharing information, and pushing it to lower levels, is not a substitute for intelligent decision-making; military forces are not bees or wasps. Some of the challenges of swarming, indeed, involve the ability of lower echelons to be aware of much more complex situations. Information overload is a real concern.
Decentralized decision-making has broader implications than military issues alone. It is wise to avoid micromanagement, but sometimes political decisions are necessary before taking an action. The C4ISR expert panel suggested moving from the "operational engagement area to explore swarming methodology for other missions/applications", such as protecting computer networks and defending against terrorism. There will be new complexity in Rules of Engagement: at what point can an autonomous weapons system be trusted to fire without human oversight?
More swarming will mean shifts in leadership, personnel, and facilities. The leadership must be able to trust a decentralized model, and all levels must have interoperable communications. There may be cases where higher-ranking officers need to command, or provide support to, smaller units than those with which they normally work, because that swarming agent may be the only one in contact with the enemy.
Command thinking is one personnel issue. Another, especially with autonomous or semiautonomous combat systems, is having "Smarter, more skilled personnel - But tradeoff is need for less personnel". The remaining personnel will be more like special operators—can enough be found?
Distributed models will call for both more prepositioned resources (not necessarily personnel) and the ability to reach back to the home country for support. Just in time logistics may replace forward permanent bases, but those logistics have to be able to reach the users.
Read more about this topic: Swarming (military)
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