Hanscom Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, Meeting

Tuesday, 27 September 2005

MIT Lincoln Laboratory Auditorium

Refreshments: 3:30 PM, Talk 4 - 5 PM

Joint Meeting with the IEEE Life Members


Lanchester’s Laws and Asymmetric Warfare

Charles "Bert" Fowler, C.A. Fowler Associates

In a 1916 paper, "Mathematics in Warfare," Fredrick William Lanchester showed mathematically that the effectiveness of a military force is proportional to the effectiveness of its weapons and to the square of its numbers. During the cold war, in the strategic nuclear area, the US opted for parity in numbers. However, in the tactical arena, the story was quite different. There was a great numerical disparity between the Warsaw Pact’s massive conventional forces and those of NATO. The Pact had overwhelming superiority in numbers in almost all categories – infantry, tanks, artillery, tactical aircraft, etc – ratios ranging from 2 to 5 to one. In the late ‘70s, the US highlighted the relevance of Lanchester’s Law to this issue and decided to use technology to overcome numbers. Our approach was two pronged: provide intelligence/surveillance/situational awareness such that our commanders could wherever possible, achieve local numerical superiority and, equally important, avoid local numerical inferiority; and develop capabilities for asymmetrical engagements which would achieve the vastly greater weapon-system effectiveness needed to offset superior numbers.

This talk describes Lanchester’s law and its variants and discusses the developments that optimized the effectiveness of our forces to counter the Pact numbers. Although, happily, war with the Pact was avoided, the success of these US efforts was demonstrated by the rapidity and completeness of the 1991 Gulf War victory.

"Lessons Learned" Studies of this War were carried out by many groups and nations. Each concluded that no sensible nation would challenge the US in a conventional war (at least as long as we kept some semblance of that military capability) and that various forms of asymmetry, preferably low-tech, would be needed. Examples cited were urban and jungle warfare. However, our enemies have learned too well. By adopting Terrorism, they have resorted to the extreme form of asymmetry. Now the US finds itself on the other side of the Lanchester equation. We have great numerical superiority over the terrorists but have yet to find effective ways to deal with them. This represents the challenge of today – and it probably does not have a military-only solution.

Charles A. "Bert" Fowler received his BS in Engineering Physics (High Honors) from the University of Illinois in 1942. From 1942-45 he was a Staff Member at the MIT Radiation Laboratory working on the GCA radar landing system and an air traffic control system. From 1946-1966, he was at the Airborne Instruments Laboratory (now AIL Systems Inc.) where he was involved in air traffic control and radar systems. From 1966-1970, he served as the Deputy Director of Defense Research and Engineering for Tactical Systems in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. From 1970-1976, he was Vice President and Manager, Equipment Development Laboratories, Raytheon Company Equipment Division. From 1976-1985, he was with the MITRE Corporation serving as General Manager, Bedford Operations and Senior Vice President. He is currently a private consultant to industry and government (C. A. Fowler Associates, Sudbury, MA).

He is a former member and past Chairman of the Defense Science Board (DSB) and of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Science and Technology Advisory Board (STAB) and a former member of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). Mr. Fowler is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the IEEE, the AAAS, and the AIAA, and a member of the AOC. He has received: the Secretary of Defense Medal for Meritorious Civilian Service (1970); the Association of Old Crows (AOC) Joint Service Award (1980); the Defense Intelligence Agency Exceptional Civilian Service Medal (1982); the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service (1987 and 1997); the IEEE AESS Harry Rowe Mimno Award for best technical paper (1998) with John Entzminger and William Kenneally; the 1998 IEEE AESS Pioneer Award "For pioneering efforts in basic concepts, system designs and technical ideas" that led to a major new U. S. military capability; the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System or Joint STARS;" the DIA Defense Intelligence Director’s Award (2001); and The Secretary of Defense 2001 Eugene G. Fubini Award for "valued and lasting contributions to our nation’s defense--." In addition his former company, AIL Systems Inc., established the annually awarded C. A. "Bert" Fowler "Excellence in Engineering Award" in 1989.


Registration is in the main lobby.  Foreign national visitors to Lincoln Lab require visit The meeting will be held at the Lincoln Lab Auditorium at 4:00 PM. Refreshments will be served at 3:30 PM. Registration is in the main lobby. requests.  You may also pre-register by e-mail to Roslyn Wesley, rwesley@ll.mit.edu; please indicate your citizenship.  You will not receive a confirmation of your pre-registration, however, your badge will be ready for you when you register. Please use the Wood Street Gate.  For directions go to http://www.ll.mit.edu For other information, contact Ed Altshuler, Chairman, at (781)377-4662, or edward.altshuler@hanscom.af.mil