RELATIVE SUPERIORITY

TRIDENT MARINE continually strives to improve maritime interdiction (MI) capability through continued research and development.   We have been at the fore front of operational research in MI mission planning, training and design for a number of years.  Contact us if you would like copies of research papers or conference proceedings.

ENAHNCING MARITIME INTERDICTION BY RELATIVE SUPERIORITY

INTRODUCTION

 

Maritime Interdiction (MI) Operations are becoming a more recognised and essential element of maritime security and the protection of international trade. Successful MI operations require significant investment and logistics by the deploying organisation, which includes the interoperability of multiple agencies and nations. Typically Special Operations Forces (SOF) or specially trained personnel undertake MI operations.

 

A theory of special operations, described by McRaven (1993), proposes the concept of Relative Superiority to explain how small units overcome larger forces. Using the Relative Superiority theory model, it has been demonstrated that two elements are crucial for success in MI operations; the coxswains ability to get the craft to the target, and getting the boarding team onto the target vessel. Contemporary modelling and simulation provides the tools to develop and support the required capabilities to delivery of the craft and boarding team to the target vessel. Examples of these include craft navigation, command & control, operational tasking and communication.

 

The delivery of these developmental solutions includes PC-based simulation, bridge simulators and operational planning tools. The challenge of successful MI operations is their dynamic nature (e.g. moving target vessel) and how the multiple resources are managed. This paper will describe how modelling and simulation using Relative Superiority (RS) theory supports the development of effective MI operations. 

 

Maritime Interdiction (MI) Operations are becoming a more recognised and essential element of maritime security in the protection of coastal boarders & international trade. Successful MI operations require significant investment in resources and logistics by the deploying organisation, which includes the interoperability of multiple assets, agencies and nations. Typically Special Operations Forces (SOF) or specially trained personnel, undertake MI operations. The operations may be broken down into three types and defined below in Table 1: 

 

Type                          Definition / Description

 

1.  Complaint           Visit Board Search & Seizure (VBSS)       None Hostile

2.  Non-compliant    Visit Board Search & Seizure (VBSS)       Hostile

3.  Opposed             Contested Boarding Covert                      Covert

 

Further detailed descriptions can be found VBSS 1-4 with inclusion of freeboard heights. 

 

A theory of special operations, described by McRaven [2], proposes the concept of Relative Superiority (RS) to explain how small units overcome larger forces. By applying the RS theory to MI operations McLellan [3] it has been demonstrated that two elements are crucial for operational success, these single-points-of-failure are:

  • The High Speed Craft (HSC) coxswains ability to get the craft to the target.

  • The groups ability to get the boarding team onto the target vessel.

 

A graphical representation of the risks associated with MI Operations, identified using the RS theory, are illustrated below in Figure 2. It can be seen that the Risk to the Mission is high prior to the Transfer of the assault team to the target; this is where the actions of the HSC coxswain and crew during the approach to the target are critical to mission success. Similarly, the Risk to the Mission and Risk to the Force are greatest from just prior to the beginning of the Transfer through to its completion; this is where the actions of the coxswain during the Transfer, and the ability of the boarding team to successfully execute the transfer are critical to mission success. 

 

COMBAT ESTIMATE PROCESS; “THE SEVEN QUESTIONS”

 

The Combat Estimate Process or “The Seven Questions” (7Q) is well established as a means of developing a plan by the use of seven logical questions. The process, facilitated by the 7Qs, leads the planner from the initial analysis of the situation, through to the development of a executable plan. Various alternative estimate or decision making processes may be used, however to simplify the integration between the military planning process and the RS theory, the 7Q Combat Estimate Process is used. The Combat Estimate Process 7Qs are as follows with examples of answers related to the MI scenario:

 

Q1.  What is the enemy doing & why?

  • How does the ground affect enemy operations?

  • What are the enemy’s capabilities?

  • What are the enemy’s intentions in my area?

 

Q2.  What have I been told to do and why?

  • What is my Superior Commands intent and my part in their plan.

  • Specified tasks / Implied tasks.

  • What constraints are imposed on me?

  • Has the situation changed?

  • Required clarification.

 

Q3.  What effects do I want to have on the enemy and what  direction must I give to develop a plan?

 

  • Examples: Find, Fix, Harass, Deceive, Surprise, Blind, Suppress, Disrupt, Neutralise, Delay, Deny, Defeat, Destroy

 

Q4. Where can I best accomplish each action/effect?

  • Axes/Location of assault, Approach, Alternative Approaches.

 

Q5 What resources are required to accomplish each action/effect?

  • Air, surface, FOB, Assault craft, Assault Force, Intelligence

 

Q6. When & where do the actions/effects take place in relation to each other?

  • Refer to generic MI Operation – Figure 1

 

Q7. What control measures do I need to impose?

  • Limit Of Exploitation, report lines, signal, codenames,

 

Relative Superiority

 

“The point at which relative superiority is achieved is also frequently the point of greatest risk”

McRaven, 1993

 

Relative Superiority has three basic properties, that of the Pivotal Moment, Achieving RS and Sustaining RS. The Pivotal Moment within an MI operation could be as early as the final approach (earliest point of detection) well before the troops transfer to the target or any engagement with the enemy. Achieving RS is suggested to be the completion of the unhindered/undetected troop transfer, and Sustaining RS being the ability to maintain control over the target vessel or craft long enough to complete the mission. The principles of Special Operations described within McRaven’s Theory of Special Operations (1993) are Purpose, Simplicity, Repetition, Surprise, Speed and Security. These principles, illustrated graphically in Figure 3, if considered equally during the MI operational planning phase supports the MI forces ability to conduct successful operations and gain RS as quickly as possible. 

 

To read more on Enhancing Maritime Interdiction By Relative Superiority download at: NATO S&T 

 

 

RELATIVE SUPERIORITY BY DESIGN

INTRODUCION

 

Modern military operational successes are no longer measured in large decisive single events but smaller skirmishes with even smaller margins of error between failure and success. This has led to governments needing to invest more resources to develop new and enhanced capabilities. Manufacturers are now required to design, develop and build optimised systems that deliver the war fighter’s required capability in order to maintain an advantage over future threats. 

 

RELATIVE SUPERIORITY (RS)

 

Military training, tactics and procedures (TTPs) continually develop to maintain this advantage by using the systems to their greatest advantage. These TTPs are generally based on principles of action such as the Theory of Special Operations (McRaven, 1993) and Relative Superiority (RS). The foundations of this theory are based on six principles: simplicity; security; repetition; surprise; speed; and purpose.

 

Military planners apply these principles to a proposed action and aim to maintain these principles throughout the operation in order to increase the likelihood of success—and therefore, reduce the risk of failure.

Relative superiority has three basic properties: the pivotal moment, and achieving and sustaining RS. The pivotal moment within a maritime interdiction (MI) operation could be as early as the final approach to the target vessel / platform (the earliest point of potential detection), well before the assault team transfers to the target or engages with the enemy. RS is achieved with the completion of the unhindered troop transfer, and sustaining RS is the maintenance of control over the target vessel / platform long enough to complete the mission. 

 

SINGLE POINTS OF FAILURE

 

For MI operations, RS theory has identified two single points of failure; the ability of the craft and its crew to reach the target and the ability of the boarding team to transfer to the target. If either of these cannot be achieved the mission will be a failure. Therefore, by addressing the RS principles within the design process, the risk of these single points of failure can be reduced. “The point at which relative superiority is achieved is also frequently the point of greatest risk,” (McRaven, 1993).

 

RELATIVE SUPERIORITY BY DESIGN

 

The six principles described within McRaven’s Theory of Special Operations, if considered equally during the system (or system of systems) design process, they will support assault forces’ ability to successfully achieve and sustainRS as quickly as possible. Relative superiority by design uses these principles to help designers and manufacturers better understand how their use within the system / boat design phase improves the likelihood of operational success. Descriptions of how each RS principle can be addressed within the system design phase are described below:

 

1. Simplicity

2. Security

3. Repetition

4. Surprise

5. Speed

6. Purpose

 

To read more on Relative Superiority By Design go to

 

Defence Procurement International Journal, Winter 2014 or contact us.

 

 

 

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