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Targeting, deployment and loss-tolerance in Lanchester engagements

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JournalOperations Research
DateAccepted/In press - 12 Jun 2020
DateE-pub ahead of print - 9 Dec 2020
DatePublished (current) - 1 Jan 2021
Issue number1
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)71-81
Early online date9/12/20
Original languageEnglish


Existing Lanchester combat models focus on two force parameters: numbers (force size) and per-capita effectiveness (attrition rate). While these two parameters are central in projecting a battle’s outcome, there are other important factors that affect the battlefield: (1) targeting capability, the capacity to identify live enemy units and not dissipate fire on non-targets; (2) tactical restrictions preventing full deployment of forces; and (3) morale and tolerance of losses, the capacity to endure casualties. In the spirit of Lanchester theory, we derive, for the first time, force-parity equations for various combinations of these effects, and obtain general implications and trade-offs. We show that more units and better weapons (higher attrition rate) are preferred over improved targeting capability and relaxed deployment restrictions unless these are poor. However, when facing aimed fire and unable to deploy more than half one’s force it is better to be able to deploy more existing units than to have either additional reserve units or the same increase in attrition effectiveness. Likewise more relaxed deployment constraints are preferred over enhanced loss-tolerance when initial reserves are greater than the force level at which withdrawal occurs.

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© 2020, INFORMS. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.

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