Author Topic: Deception, OPSEC, and Surprise  (Read 1073 times)

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Offline Haligonian

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Deception, OPSEC, and Surprise
« on: October 28, 2018, 15:35:22 »
I was lucky enough to spend the last 10 days in the UK and France on a staff ride of the Western Front from WW 1 with the British Army.  The Brits have done a similar ride every two years for the last six years and have been using it for force development purposes so it's less about the history of a specific battle and more about what we could draw from that battle that is relevant to future operations.

While I gained a ton of lessons, one point that kept coming out was the importance of some of the principles and particularly surprise.  Our discussions led us to believe, unsurprisingly, that surprise would continue to be important to successful offensive actions in the future.  Considering the proliferation of cheap UAVs and many of our potential enemy's focus on EW, not to mention all the less novel surveillance and reconnaissance assets out there, achieving surprise seems to be becoming more difficult. 

This led discussions to the importance in the future of opsec and deception.  Opsec presents challenges on multiple levels for the Canadian Forces.  Most of us, particularly our younger soldiers are used to broadcasting their lives on social media.  Our headquarters are huge and blast the EM spectrum making them light up like a Christmas tree.  More concerning is the impact opsec could have on mission command.  In WW 1 Hague imposed heavy opsec on his formations with those being aware of future operations being kept to a very small number of people.  We now want informed commanders and soldiers who are empowered to make decisions independently.  Could we severely restrict information on future operations without damaging our command culture (or what we think is our command culture)?

I don't think we do deception very well.  Most commanders in the CA will have few opportunities to do what I call high fidelity training (essentially force on force of at least Ex MR quality) where you are fighting a thinking enemy who you could actually deceive as opposed to a place holder enemy controlled by the DS or exercise staff.  We noted that deception needs to be resourced and credible. It is ideally targetted at making the enemy to make a decision that is inappropriate for your chosen course of action.  The more resources dedicated the more credible it will likely be.  A deception plan that sees you dropping some smoke to the enemy's left when you're coming right is less likely to work than a deception plan that put an actual sub unit there.  Deception will be most effective when you have a good understanding of the enemy's culture/biases and their commander specifically.  This can allow you to get in their head and show them what they want or expect to see.  An instructor told me once the best lie is a half truth.

Resources for deception are always a problem, paradoxically, the fewer resources you have compared to your enemy the more you need to rely on deception.  Our sr mentor compared this to a bar fight.  If I'm going to pick a fight with a guy twice my size the more I need to rely on distracting him before striking.

I had a discussion with my CO a few weeks back and if we don't think we can successfully hide then perhaps the answer now is to flood the enemy with signatures.  Essentially this would be numerous decoys of maneuver forces, headquarters, logistic sites, and anything else that might get the enemy to juke when he should jive and provide us with increased force protection.

Just a few musings after a particularly good professional development experience. 

Online Infanteer

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Re: Deception, OPSEC, and Surprise
« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2018, 18:55:16 »
Jim Storr dedicates an entire chapter of research to surprise and shock in The Human Face of War.  Of note:

-  Historically, surprise occurs in about 40% of infantry attacks. (p. 85)
-  If surprise is achieved, the probability of success is largely independent of force ratio. (p. 85)
-  If surprise is not achieved, then the resulting fight is a matter of attrition. (p. 85)
-  Attacker casualties are, historically, 42% lower when surprise is achieved. (p. 85)
-  Surprise will have a greater impact than a force ratio of 10:1. (p. 86)
-  Shock is principally caused by surprise, either in manouevre or in fires. (p. 87)
-  Shock reduces defender effectiveness by about 40%.  This is culmulative with the effects of surprise, so surprising an enemy and then inducing shock can result in 60-65% reduction in defensive effectiveness. (p. 87)

So, surprise is critical to effective warfighting.  Deception is a key way of achieving surprise.  I remember seeing a principle somewhere that battlefield deception could be classified three different ways:

Concealment:  The enemy doesn't see me coming. (eg. ambush)
Misdirection:  The enemy sees something other than what I want him to see. (eg. feint)
Ambivalence: The enemy sees something, but can't figure out what he is seeing, creating uncertainty. (eg. false signatures).

Your point about flooding the enemy with signatures has merit, and could easily provide any of the three aforementioned types of deception.

Key to deception is the "MacGruder Principle" - it is easier to make an adversary believe in something that he is inclined to see as true rather than convince him of something entirely different.

So, I guess the question is, what can a battle group or a brigade group commander realistically do to create deception, surprise, and shock?  Are these in his or her wheelhouse, or matters for higher formation commanders?
"Overall it appears that much of the apparent complexity of modern war stems in practice from the self-imposed complexity of modern HQs" LCol J.P. Storr

Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: Deception, OPSEC, and Surprise
« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2018, 23:15:59 »
Jim Storr dedicates an entire chapter of research to surprise and shock in The Human Face of War.  Of note:

-  Historically, surprise occurs in about 40% of infantry attacks. (p. 85)
-  If surprise is achieved, the probability of success is largely independent of force ratio. (p. 85)
-  If surprise is not achieved, then the resulting fight is a matter of attrition. (p. 85)
-  Attacker casualties are, historically, 42% lower when surprise is achieved. (p. 85)
-  Surprise will have a greater impact than a force ratio of 10:1. (p. 86)
-  Shock is principally caused by surprise, either in manouevre or in fires. (p. 87)
-  Shock reduces defender effectiveness by about 40%.  This is culmulative with the effects of surprise, so surprising an enemy and then inducing shock can result in 60-65% reduction in defensive effectiveness. (p. 87)

So, surprise is critical to effective warfighting.  Deception is a key way of achieving surprise.  I remember seeing a principle somewhere that battlefield deception could be classified three different ways:

Concealment:  The enemy doesn't see me coming. (eg. ambush)
Misdirection:  The enemy sees something other than what I want him to see. (eg. feint)
Ambivalence: The enemy sees something, but can't figure out what he is seeing, creating uncertainty. (eg. false signatures).

Your point about flooding the enemy with signatures has merit, and could easily provide any of the three aforementioned types of deception.

Key to deception is the "MacGruder Principle" - it is easier to make an adversary believe in something that he is inclined to see as true rather than convince him of something entirely different.

So, I guess the question is, what can a battle group or a brigade group commander realistically do to create deception, surprise, and shock?  Are these in his or her wheelhouse, or matters for higher formation commanders?

As Rommel said:

β€œIt is often possible to decide the issue of a battle merely by making an unexpected shift of one's main weight.”

―  Erwin Rommel,  The Rommel Papers

That might be surprise enough....
"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon

Offline Ostrozac

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Re: Deception, OPSEC, and Surprise
« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2018, 05:40:43 »
The textbook example would be the 1991 Gulf War, where the US-led coalition put significant effort into convincing the Iraqis that the ground invasion would enter directly into Kuwait, instead of the left hook maneuver through the Saudi-Iraqi border. The deception plan seemed to work.

More recently, Russia managed to achieve surprise in the Crimea in 2014 and Georgia in 2008.







Offline Haligonian

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Re: Deception, OPSEC, and Surprise
« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2018, 11:41:18 »
The textbook example would be the 1991 Gulf War, where the US-led coalition put significant effort into convincing the Iraqis that the ground invasion would enter directly into Kuwait, instead of the left hook maneuver through the Saudi-Iraqi border. The deception plan seemed to work.

More recently, Russia managed to achieve surprise in the Crimea in 2014 and Georgia in 2008.

I would suggest that these actually aren't text book cases for our purposes here.  The Iraqis had zero capability to conduct surveillance from the sky so making a huge left hook into the tractless desert wasn't that hard.  They also didn't realize or were ignorant to the capability of GPS and so such a movement was impossible.

The question is how do we deceive an opponent when the sky, space, cyber, and EM environments are contested or perhaps we've even lost in those environments, if only temporarily?

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Re: Deception, OPSEC, and Surprise
« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2018, 12:33:57 »
Desert Storm was a textbook case of the MacGruder Principle.  Saddam was convinced the US would invade from the sea, and deployed significant forces and resources to guard against a landing, something CENTCOM let him keep thinking.

If the adversary is capable of seeing things better in various domains/environments, then perhaps concealment isn't an option.  Go for misdirection or ambivalence. 
"Overall it appears that much of the apparent complexity of modern war stems in practice from the self-imposed complexity of modern HQs" LCol J.P. Storr

Offline Old Sweat

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Re: Deception, OPSEC, and Surprise
« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2018, 13:31:02 »
Desert Storm was a textbook case of the MacGruder Principle.  Saddam was convinced the US would invade from the sea, and deployed significant forces and resources to guard against a landing, something CENTCOM let him keep thinking.

If the adversary is capable of seeing things better in various domains/environments, then perhaps concealment isn't an option.  Go for misdirection or ambivalence.

I was part of a team put together to track both sides in Gulf 1. It may say something about Sadam's lack of sophistication that he was taken in by the US amphibious threat. The hydrographics, if that is the correct term, in the upper gulf were unfavourable for any sort of landing, but the Iraqis could not figure that out. We had estimated as far back as end-October that the Americans would do a wide left flanking and destroy the enemy in the area between the Kuwait border and Basra. We also estimated that the earliest they could be ready was mid-February. Edit to add - we worked with J4 Mov on this.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2018, 13:51:10 by Old Sweat »

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Re: Deception, OPSEC, and Surprise
« Reply #7 on: October 29, 2018, 14:17:05 »
That didn't stop the Commandant of the Marine Corps from trying.  If you read the official histories, it pretty much reads like Colin Powell had to tell Al Gray to go away and let Schwarzkopf get on with his job.
"Overall it appears that much of the apparent complexity of modern war stems in practice from the self-imposed complexity of modern HQs" LCol J.P. Storr

Offline Old Sweat

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Re: Deception, OPSEC, and Surprise
« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2018, 14:53:39 »
That didn't stop the Commandant of the Marine Corps from trying.  If you read the official histories, it pretty much reads like Colin Powell had to tell Al Gray to go away and let Schwarzkopf get on with his job.

At the time we read that as part of a deception plan to keep Iraq forces tied down in Kuwait guarding the coast.