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Revolution in military affairs

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Revolution in military affairs (RMA) has been, most recently, associated with high-technology changes to modern forces, but one of its theorists, retired Colonel Doug Macgregor, points to a variety of historical events, when a military force "successfully exploit[ed]" technology, organization, training and leadership to attain qualitatively superior fighting power, as well as dramatic positional advantages in time and space which the opponent’s countermeasures cannot defeat. In a briefing derived from his book, Breaking the Phalanx,[1] he gives examples including:[2]

  • Napoleon’s Conduct of Warfare in the early 1800s;
  • German Conquest of France in 1940;
  • American Carrier-based Warfare in the Pacific during WW II;
  • Soviet/Russian Operational Art in the last years of WW II.

Other examples, where a technology and its application changed warfare when it first appeared, include the first effective ironclad warships at the Battle of Hampton Roads and the introduction of a radically new battleship type with HMS Dreadnought (1905).

Air warfare theorists long promised a revolution from airpower, and, while airpower was immensely influential, it certainly did not approach its war-winning claims until after the Second World War. An example of how a revolution can take place without actually using the weapons was the mutual assured destruction nuclear deterrence model of the Cold War.

RMAs do not necessarily require high technology, as evidenced by the effectiveness of guerrilla warfare. [3]

One of the steps in recent RMA was the development of precision-guided munitions, introduced in the Vietnam War, but first used in large, decisive quantities in the Gulf War. Another aspect is John Boyd's concept of the observe-orient-decide-act (OODA) loop, in which the side that uses information faster and better wins. Boyd's specific work was in fighter combat; the U.S. Navy's "Top Gun" training approach used these ideas.

Derived in part from MacGregor's work is the restructuring of the United States Army, which changed the WWII-based structure from one based on divisions to smaller and more flexible brigades, making extensive use of computers and communications. This fits into a broader framework of "maneuver warfare".[4]


  1. Doug Macgregor (1997), Breaking the Phalanx: A New Design for Landpower in the 21st Century, Praeger Paperback, ISBN 0275957942
  2. Doug Macgregor, Why Organization Matters
  3. Mao Tse-tung (1967), On Protracted War, Foreign Languages Press
  4. Robert R. Leonhard (1991), The Art of Maneuver: Maneuver-Warfare Theory and AirLand Battle, Presidio, ISBN 0891415327