<XMP><BODY></xmp>Troop type comparisom matrix


        Many years ago I came across an excellent book on military science. Sadly, I failed to make a note of the author, and if I recall the title was simply something like “War”, so I’m unable to relocate a copy. Decades later I have finally identified the work as “The Art of War in Western World” by Archer Jones.
        One of the interesting things about this book was that it was very good at explaining many of the mechanisms of ancient warfare. One tool that it used to do this was a sort of matrix that helped explain what troop types were effective against what other troop types.
        The original book spoke of “heavy” and “light” forces. I’ve substituted the terms “shock” and “missile”, since it makes things clearer. It is also probably wise to think of these as capabilities rather than unit types. Many light troops are capable of shock action, and many heavy units have had some missile capability.
The troop type at the tail of the arrow has an advantage over the troop type that the arrow is pointing to.
        The troop type at the tail of the arrow has an advantage over the troop type that the arrow is pointing to.

        There certain assumptions inherent to this model.Shock Cavalry
        Most expensive class of soldier. Most useful against infantry in open order. This usually means missile infantry or heavy infantry whose formation has broken. Would not usually be capable of breaking heavy infantry unless there is a considerable disparity in armament or nerve –for example, long lances verses short hand weapons. Most effective if applied against the flanks or rear of a formation.
        Useful against lighter/ missile cavalry if it can neutralise its mobility by sandwiching them between a terrain feature or another unit (enemy or friendly). Presence of cavalry capable of shock action is useful since it forces enemy into tighter formations, making them vulnerable to missile attack. Heavy cavalry can be used to pin or block an enemy in much the same way as heavy infantry can under certain situations.
        Useful in a defensive role protecting the flanks of infantry and exploiting formations broken by infantry.

Missile Cavalry
        Most effective against massed infantry. Effective against heavy cavalry if given sufficient room to run from attempted charges.
        Weapons usually have less range than those of missile infantry and cannot produce such a concentration of fire, so usually overmatched by missile infantry. Most missile cavalry have some capability for shock action, so may attack missile infantry and scattered heavy infantry in this fashion. Missile cavalry are well suited for screening ahead of a force and skirmishing in the flanks and rear.

Heavy/ Shock Infantry.
        Most effective against shock cavalry if there is no great disparity in armament. Can be used to hold or pin an enemy force to immobilise it for attack by other units. Vulnerable to missile cavalry and infantry if the lighter units can avoid closing with the heavy infantry. Can provide protection from cavalry for missile infantry.
        Troops need to be well trained if they are to manoeuvre without becoming disorganised.

Missile Infantry
        Effective against heavy infantry in close formation. Usually cheap, cost effective and versatile. Effective against missile cavalry if enjoys superiority in range. Needs to retreat from shock action. Very vulnerable to shock cavalry action unless fortifications or heavy infantry are available for defence. Can provide shock action against lighter forces.

Artillery and Chariots
        Artillery can be treated as missile troops in this model –effective against massed infantry but vulnerable to cavalry attack unless it had a defensive position or could retreat.
        Chariots can be treated as cavalry. Peoples such as the Hittites are know to have used their chariots as shock weapons against infantry, while the Egyptians used their chariots for missile warfare and to attack those of people such as the Hittites. Chariots fell into a decline once horses suitable for riding had been bred and the techniques of fighting from horse back were mastered. Cavalry and chariots did share some battlefields, and it seems the greater mobility of the horseman usually gave him the advantage unless the chariots were supported by other arms.

Elephants
        War elephants are often described as “Battle tanks of the Ancient world”, but this is misleading. While an elephant is big and heavy and can be armoured, it lacks the firepower to serve a role similar to that of a tank. Elephants are better thought of as big ponderous cavalry. Elephants were very effective at smashing up massed infantry. They were also effective against cavalry since horses feared them, particularly if unaccustomed to them.
         Most effective counter to elephants were missile troops and harassing infantry in open order. At close range the leg tendons could be hacked at or spears thrust at the anus.
         The use of elephants in battle was often a two-edged sword. While they could terrify an enemy and his horses, they themselves were prone to panicking and stampede. In at least one battle a blast of trumpets caused war elephants to turn and run amok through their own side. Best place to deploy elephants was probably well away from your own infantry.


        The above model seems to hold true for warfare up until the start of the twentieth century. The author also offered a model for more modern systems of warfare. This is worth a look, but to my mind not quite as clear cut.
The troop type at the tail of the arrow has an advantage over the troop type that the arrow is pointing to.
        You’ll notice that artillery and infantry are treated as a single troop type. Also notable is the lack of vertical arrows. Aircraft such as the A-10 and helicopter gunships can certainly defeat tanks, and it is routine for ZSU-23s to fire on ATGW positions.
         I think the reason that these arrows are not present is that the effectiveness is very dependent on the type of systems used. During World War Two rocket-firing Typhoons did tremendous damage to thin skinned vehicles, but their actual capability against tanks has often been overrated. In “Tank Warfare” Kenneth Macksey estimates that the chance of a Typhoon rocket destroying a Panther was only 1 in 200 (0.5%). Likewise, not all anti-aircraft systems are suitable for attacking ground targets, and the term “anti-tank weapon” includes a diverse range of systems. A few infantrymen with an ATGW are far more vulnerable than a dug-in anti-tank guns or a Jagdpanzer-type tank destroyer.

FEEDBACK
        Many thanks to Bill Hayes, who comments:-

        I was reading your “Troop Type Comparison Matrix”, it reminds me a lot of “The Art of War in the Western World” by Archer Jones.
         He also notes the effect of fortification (makes cavalry irrelevant), duration of engagement (when light beats heavy it can take days), and analyzes the exceptions: at Marathon Athenian HI defeated Persian LI (Persians had their rear on a beach and could not manoeuvre).

         No matter how powerful any unit type maybe, combined arms are always better. A lesson military strategist seem to need to relearn a regular intervals. And the corollary: a force can never be more mobile than its least mobile unit. A lesson that again seems to require frequent repetition.




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