The Combat Capacities of the Forces as an Operational System.


We call a “system” to a harmonic (with correspondence between them) and synergistic (acting together) set of different elements, but related in nature. That produce or generate a complex and essential function of the broader military activity. Its definition aims for systems to globally understand the variables or elements of their nature that intervene in operations. This would allow us to more easily and precisely focus our attention on them, in order to achieve control and direction of the entire complex phenomenon of war.

Combat capacities” are the set of military means (men, installations, weapons and all supports) that a “closed military system” (in the case of an operation or campaign) or a society or state possess for its defense.


Its more complete expression is found in combined or inter arms groups which, even at the small units level, multiply and adapt the possibilities of military struggle in the interfaces of action with the enemy. Combined arms groups seek to accelerate the pace (tempo) or the speed of the elementary “cycles of action” against him. In fact, the incorporation of infantry heavy weapons as organic support elements in small units, forms, qualitatively, an inter arms system.

Combat capacities are that allow a force to achieve a favorable decision and, therefore, operational efficiency in the determined, sought after and transcendent combats, with the enemy. They also give credibility to group movement capacities in maneuvers through the real threat that they pose for the enemy. Simple movement is an empty decoration or an impotent sigh, if it is not paired with the capacity to damage the enemy and the will to do so.

Combat capacity and the capacity of operational movement form complementary and synergic «opposing but not antagonist couples» within the operational systems. Neither of them transcends without the other. Moreover, one of the two is only frustrated and fails without the other. Both systems procure and invigorate tactical actions and execute and fertilize operational maneuvers.

Quantitative studies.

Trevor N. Dupuy has tried to work out a way of quantifying combat capacities (which will always vary according to different units and weapons and countries). (1) Dupuy’s work quantifies units depending on their type and adds a factor depending on which army, war and campaign are under consideration, to obtain values of relative military power for each case.

These «powers» are a relative quantification (remember that there is a multiplier factor, which introduces the efficiency of army in the face of a concrete enemy in a given situation) of the combat capacities of land armies in different epochs or theatres of operations.

Simpkin proposes a similar, more qualitative formula that factors in the equipment of units (this formula is only suitable for mechanized armies). Being the extremes of the classification, an infantry unit and a tank unit of equal level. (2)

The applications, and possibilities of combat capacities are extensively discusses throughout our works.

(1) Trevor N. Dupuy. The Comprehension of the War. Study and Theory of the Combat. Madrid, 1990. Pages 123 to 172.

(2) Richard Simpkin. Race to the Swift. London, 1994. Pages 79 to 85.

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