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Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2002

    Key book for "warriors" and "maneuverists"

    Robert Coram has written an important book in ¿Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War¿ ¿ but, as in Colonel Boyd himself, a book showing both brilliance and limitations. As a member of the U.S. Army¿s reserve components since 1983, a former Pentagon political appointee from 1986 to 88, and a defense consultant since 1991, I¿ve had the opportunity see or participate in much of Colonel Boyd impacted. I bought Coram¿s book because I vividly remember spending a couple of days getting the ¿full brief¿ from Colonel Boyd back in 1987 in a dilapidated brick building in Washington, not far from Union Station. My Pentagon boss sent me to the briefing which was delivered by Col. Boyd and at least one of his ¿Acolytes.¿ About ten people attended. At the time, I had no idea of Boyd¿s significance ¿ the briefing did, however, make a lasting impression on me. Its two most salient concepts were the now-famous O-O-D-A Loop and Boyd¿s ¿To be or to do¿ speech (a heavy concept for a 24-year-old political idealist). The book has three main thrusts: Boyd¿s theories (mostly on conflict); Boyd¿s battles against the Pentagon¿s acquisition system; and Boyd¿s personal life. That Colonel Boyd had an unusually keen insight into the nature of human conflict should not be in dispute. His foremost contribution to art of war is a time-based view of warfare ¿ the Observe Orient Decide Act (OODA) Loop. This book provides the context for how the author of the OODA Loop created it and worked tirelessly to get it into the hands of those who would apply it ¿ it does not (nor should it) go in to detail as to how to apply it in combat. The book discusses Boyd¿s other theories and how they came to be as well. Boyd¿s first breakthrough was ¿Energy-Maneuverability¿ or E-M Theory ¿ a theory that changed fighter aircraft design (and which has an interesting tangential relationship to the OODA Loop). His most purely intellectual theory was ¿Destruction and Creation,¿ a theory that purports to explain the way individuals and groups think and process reality in order to ¿improve their capacity for independent action.¿ This theory ambitiously attempts to tie together human behavior with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, Godel, Heisenberg, and Planck ¿ heady stuff for a fighter pilot from Erie. Colonel Boyd¿s battles against the Pentagon¿s acquisition system ¿ especially the U.S. Air Force and its F-15, F-16, F-111, and B-1 programs are a little more problematic. It is here that Mr. Coram might have used a bit more perspective and a little more skepticism in questioning the motives of some of the ¿Military Reform Caucus¿ members (most of whom simply wanted to spend less money on the Pentagon because they did not see the Soviet Union as a threat worth defeating). U.S. weapons systems are indeed complex and very expensive. We Americans have the luxury of trading capital for blood and we (and the parents of soldiers, sailors, pilots and Marines) are all too happy to spend heavily on the one to save on the other. True, weapons systems are typically designed by committees, take too long to field, and often cost more than advertised ¿ but can anyone dispute the technical supremacy of American arms the world over? Many of the acquisition problems cited in the book were caused by the Pentagon¿s early adaptation of computer technology before such technology became commercialized, reliable, and cheap. Even so, can anyone dispute that one B-2 bomber dropping one 2,000-lb smart bomb to destroy one bridge is superior to using 100 B-52s in a raid dropping thousands of dumb bombs to accomplish the same military effect (while killing half of the adjacent city¿s population in the process)? In addition, Mr. Corum uses manipulates statistics to back up his claims. At one point he cites the cost of the B-1 bomber when cancelled by President Carter as $167 million a copy, then growing to $287 million when President Reagan restarted the p

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2008

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    Posted May 2, 2011

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    Posted November 1, 2010

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