Intelligence & Maneuver Warfare

by Capt L. A. Robinson

Mr. Lind insists on beginning many of his thought provoking articles in the GAZETTE on maneuver warfare (Mar80, Sep81, et al.) by suggesting that Marines are confused concerning this subject. Since almost every issue of the GAZETTE includes an article or reference to an article on maneuver warfare and it is the focus of attention in many FMF commands, it is logical to conclude that Marines are beginning to grasp the basic thesis.

Not only do many Marines understand the thesis, many have actually come to believe something is missing from it. Mr. Lind states that the “Boyd Theory” is the heart of maneuver warfare. As explained by him, however, it is difficult to understand how theories derived from air combat tactics apply directly to ground combat. How valid is the Boyd Theory to ground combat? I suggest that it is valid if the role of intelligence can be identified within the theory. Since the theory was based on air combat tactics it is essential to examine the platform from which the theory was developed from an aircraft. Does this platform have the necessary intelligence capability to allow the theory to work? Yes it does. The instrumentation of an aircraft is for all practicality an onboard combat information center that gives the pilot and the computerized guidance and firing system the necessary intelligence to go through repeated cycles of observation-orientationdecision-action.

On the ground, given a triple canopy and other terrain where the enemy’s actions are masked, the Boyd Theory is valid only if the observation segment of this theory is first translated into an effective intelligence system. Without it, a ground commander will never see the opportunities before him in a combat situation.

The dissemination of intelligence in maneuver warfare is key. Unless it is accomplished expeditiously and thoroughly, a rapid observationorientation-decision-action cycle cannot be maintained at lower levels of command. Procedures and techniques must be developed to speed the flow of intelligence to units at the company and battalion level over secure voice communications nets.

Identification of intelligence as an element of the Boyd Theory, adds credibility to the maneuver warfare thesis and diminishes the abstract nature of Mr. Lind’s explanations. Regardless of the style of warfare employed, intelligence is and always will be a key element. We must know our enemy, his capabilities, his limitations, and ultimately, his intent if we expect to be victorious.