Wednesday, November 13, 2013

To Be or to Do

Saterday I cried. I cried a lot of tears while reading the last pages of Robert Coram's book 'Boyd. The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War' (2002). Why? I can't really tell. I think because I liked John Boyd more and more and at the same time realizing that he was a loner and alone. He put service to truth and country ahead of everything else. He set an example of integrity - doing the hard right over the easy wrong - and morality that is rare in a Washington. He stuck to doing the right thing and still ended up being somebody.

You probably never heard of Robert Boyd (1927-1997). Have you?

40-Second Boyd. He earned the nickname "40-Second Boyd" as a result of a standing bet that he could manoeuver from a position of disadvantage (challenger on his tail) to advantage (positions reversed) in 40 seconds — or pay the challenger 40 dollars. In 6 years he never lost a bet.

Bible of Air Combat. He wrote - in his own time - 'Aerial Attack Study' (follow link to this study). For the first time aerial combat was documented, codified and illustrated. With the use of mathematics he formulated manoeuver and countermanoeuvers of dog-fighting. Fighter aviation was no longer a bag of tricks to be passed down from one generation of pilots to another.

Inventor Energy-manoeuverability (E-M) theory. With this theory he was able to compare flying characteristics of an existing fighter to those of another, say an American F-4 to a Soviet MiG-17. He discovered with this theory that the F-111 and B-1 were lame ducks. With this theory he was also able to design a truly superior fighter by developing a comprehensive trade-off process that systematically compared the performance of successive, marginally different designs. He was one of the founding fathers of the F-15 and F-16.

Operating inside an adversary's decision cycleHe thought that any conflict could be viewed as a duel wherein each adversary observes (O) his opponent's actions, orients (O) himself to the unfolding situation, decides (D) on the most appropriate response or counter-move, then acts (A). The competitor who moves through this OODA-loop cycle the fastest gains an inestimable advantage by disrupting his enemy's ability to respond effectively. Boyd's theory of operating inside an adversary's decision cycle — or OODA loop — and its relationship to conflict is a bold new conception. Hoose an enemy by destroying their orientation!

Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney used Boyd's ideas - they had secret meetings - when he overrode the Army's plan and insisted on the famous left hook into Kuwait (Gulf War 1990-1991).

Only a couple of months ago I discovered Boyd. I never heard of him before. The claim of being the most influential thinker about conflict since Sun Tzu's (544-496 BC) 'The Art of War' made me curious.

Boyd never wrote a book. He only made a couple of briefings. The most important one seems 'A Discourse on Winning and Losing' (or 'Green Book').  I've to check them out.

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