2010/10/25

Find, Fix, Strike

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"Find, Fix Strike" is a set of "core functions" of army forces, originating apparently in the UK. I've been ill for many days, but nevertheless I'll finally do what I had intended for months; have a closer look at these three Fs. Is "Find, Fix, Strike" a "useful shorthand or high-level guide"?

I'll use the description from Jim Storr's "The Human Face of War":

The enemy will conceal himself, to resist the effects of our weapons and conceal his plans, so he must be found. He will resist destruction, and attempt to damage or defeat us, so must be fixed. Finally he must be struck to inflict damage that both reduces his ability to damage us, and grants us freedom to achieve our aims.
First of all, what should be called "core functions"? It must be something really, really important by the sound of it and by the fact that it's limited to only three. The expectations wouldn't be high if it was a list of fifty things, but you better hit the nail perfectly if you assert only three "core functions"!
I feel it's fair to expose these three so-called "core functions" to a critical analysis. The "pro" faction is obviously represented by those who use these "core functions" in writing, so I think it's fine if I limit this to the "contra" element.


My first doubts are about the "Find" part:

You do not "Find" an enemy when you're attempting to ambush him. He finds you. This should obviously be included.
"Find" may also be misleading in another regard; finding the enemy isn't all that difficult, nor is it sufficient. Identification friend/foe/neutral and even battle damage assessment are extremely important as well.
Then again, Storr separates "core functions" from "functions in combat", the core functions are apparently meant to be applied at the operational level only. Maybe they should be called "operational core functions", for I've seen them applied to tactical problems.
The previous criticism was on the tactical level. Is anything wrong with "Find" on the operational level? Well, not much, except that it's probably too self-evident to be helpful. We could as well call "breathe" a core function. By Storr's description of it, "Find" is probably more a "overcome the enemy's countermeasures" anyway.


My less superficial doubts are about the "Fix" part:

Fixing the enemy has at least two components, psychological and physical. The physical seems simple: if an enemy is under fire he will have difficulty in moving, as he would if he has to cross a river with no bridges. Fixing by firepower or terrain is fairly obvious and mechanical. Being fixed psychologically us less easy to describe. It can be seen as inducing the enemy to persist with something he is predisposed to do.

"Fix" is curiously almost absent in air and naval warfare theory, save for blockading the enemy in its bases. Deployed forces usually don't get "fixed" in air or naval warfare. This is no good omen because  there are most often parallels between the art of war on land, on/in the sea and in the air.
Both the psychological and the physical element look like "nice to have" to me. Neither is really necessary for defeating the enemy, but rather highly desirable because it reduces the costs of defeating the enemy. Should a "nice to have" feature be called "core function"?

Sometimes it's even advantageous to allow the enemy a fast movement, or movement at all (see the Allied rush into Northern Belgium in May 1940). Should a "not always desirable" feature be called a "core function"?

The psychological side of "Fix" is apparently not only "less easy to describe", but also poorly described. I understand it as exerting an influence on him which makes his actions more predictable and more advantageous to us (or leads to inaction on his part).
I touched on something similar in my text Musings about a military theory framework - I called it a reduction of active repertoire and it was actually central to that angle of view on warfare.
I do strongly doubt that the psychological aspect should be subsumed under "Fix". "To fix" is something physical - it's very difficult to imagine a psychological aspect. 


Finally there's the "Strike" part:

Finally he must be struck to inflict damage that both reduces his ability to damage us, and grants us freedom to achieve our aims.

OK, there's nothing wrong with this except that it's again extremely obvious, probably too obvious to teach anything to anyone (or remind someone of something). Even if I would like this level of obviousness, I would probably rephrase the second part simply into "and to discourage him". Maybe that's a bit too Clausewitzian, though?


Sven Ortmann
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1 comment:

  1. Too obvious to be useful is a good way of summing it up, although I have a few notes...

    "You do not "Find" an enemy when you're attempting to ambush him. he finds you."
    I disagree quite strongly with this, you need to find where the enemy is going to be at Time Y and make sure you are there and in position a Time X.
    You dont simply hide and hope someone comes your way, or shouldnt anyway.

    "Deployed forces usually don't get "fixed" in air or naval warfare."
    Ground Forces "Dig In" for protection, whereas aircraft and ships run, lacking any ability to dig in.


    I'd say its military philosophy rather than strategy or doctine.
    The stuff you read in Staff College rather than when planning a campaign.

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