Lawson Command Control Cycle

Trick question: What is this?

Figure 1
You probably think this is some variation of Boyd's OODA loop.
That's at least what I expect you to think. Anyway, it's not. It is rather the Lawson Command-Control Cycle as described by Wayne D. Hughes Jr. in his book about naval tactics.

I was astonished I didn't bring this up before (there were no search hits for "Lawson" on this blog). The reason for the delay is probably that till today I cannot prove which was first - Lawson's or Boyd's. Lawson's is really old, from 1977.
Hughes claims that a Dr. Geoffrey Coyle established a similar paradigm and "Russians produced an equivalent C2 model as early as the 1960's" (1964)*.

Boyd's actual OODA Loop, according to the only sketch of it he ever showed**:

Hughes also illustrated Lawson's evolved model, from 1985 or earlier:

Figure 2
 (The graphics should enlarge to a readable size if you click on them.)

Interestingly, Hughes writes a lot about the extreme lethality of naval combat; similar to tank combat this is a lot about who gets to fire the first well-done salvo. The command control cycle in figure 2 as well as OODA, Russian and Coyle stuff have a very different interpretation if looked at from such an angle. Suddenly, it's not about doing your second action while the enemy still reacts to your first as it is in the typical OODA interpretation: It is rather about who is fastest in preparing the first well-done salvo. For the fight basically ends with that one, leaving only mopping up left to do. Well, that is how Hughes makes modern naval combat sound like.
Tank developers try to enable early detection of a hostile and to squeeze the entire engagement sequence till the first aimed shot including identification, communication, turret movement etc. into as few seconds as possible. Later on, tank platoon and company leaders attempt to exploit this hardware potential with training.

The semi-messianic stuff about Boyd including quasi-apostles etc. has always irritated me. I have not really found anything truly impressive thoughts of Boyd . He was certainly a great fighter pilot (about 5% are great, and the more experienced ones can exploit their aircraft fully). On the intellectual side, I stick to my suspicion that he was more a marketing and charisma genius than a great inventor - rather Steve Jobs-like.

There are some people on this world with the astonishing talent of building fame, career and often even wealth on the exploitation of only a handful of real ideas - and at times these aren't even theirs. It's a particularly visible phenomenon among politicians and managers.
Often times I've read or had an idea and thought; someone really talented would make a career out of promoting this. 

I really believe that this is how the world works; the really famous things aren't necessarily famous because they are outstanding, but because they were promoted well. One should take this into account when one delves into military or other theories.


I was too lazy to set up the scanner, so you got some hand-crafted MS Word art here. That's why the graphics are so irregular. Don't blame Hughes.

*: Abchuck, V.G. et al. Vyendenue v. Teoriu Vyraborki Reshenii (Introduction to Decision Making Theory). Moscow: Voyenizdat, 1972 (revision of a work from 1964)
Ivanov, D.A., V.P. Savel'yev, and P.V.Shemanskiy. Osnovy Upraleniya Voyskami v Boyu (Fundamentals of Troop Control at the Tactical Level). Moscow: Voyenizdat. Translation, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Offic, 1983 (original work from 1971)

**: According to Chet Richards.


  1. I think we can all agree that he who gets a good first shot has a huge advantage. That is why a sneak attack has so much value. But that does not always lead to wining the war. Political considerations I would say play a bigger part in warfare in the beginning than most in the military would like. Having to wait to be attacked sucks for everyone. Looking at WW2 here in the US most leaders knew that war was coming but until Pearl Harbor there was no way to convince people to go to war. But looking at gulf war 1 Iraq waited months for the Us and allied forces to build up. Most would agree had he been smart he wouldn't have. LOL sorry off topic mostly.

  2. The irony of western tank development and training is the lack of consistency between training, doctrine and employment. Training tends to focus on jousting and aggressive movement, when the advantages you describe clearly benefit the static tank on the defence. Doctrine tends to focus on penetration or pursuit action, where the main targets are C2, supply or artillery units - most of which lack the punch to threaten tanks. Employment (at least from a Canadian perspective) has been as penny-packeted infantry support, which really ought to have been done by something like a Jackal mounting an M40 or WOMBAT recoilless rifle, and not a multi-million dollar tank with an L55 gun.

    While I can't comment on naval combat, the 'first shot' theory in tank warfare looks good on paper when modeling combat between similar sized forces, but I'm not sure it applies to the era when most NATO tanks were developed, where the threat was massed Soviet mech forces. First salvos were important, but weren't going to stop the follow-on waves. That demanded combined air, aviation, artillery, anti-tank and barrier planning, and possibly the use of tactical nukes - and the tactical nuke first strike concept raises the stakes to a whole new level.

    1. Tactical nukes are surprisingly impractical in land warfare. Large yield warheads are impractical outright, while a much weaker than 100 kt warhead would often only take out a battalion or two. There would be no more force concentrations as in Normandy, Anzio, Kursk or Seelöwer Höhen any more.

      What you call inconsistency is in my opinion versatility. Versatility is at times expensive and adds some qualities not needed in a particular action, but it's of great value nevertheless.
      Quote Jane's Weapon Systems 1976: "Previously, when a tank had better armour the performance and mobility declined; in designing the Leopard 2 the Germans have reversed this trend, the result being a superior vehicle."
      It was the first Chobham armour generation tank, and like it almost all other such tank designs have accomplished to be very good at everything but price and light weight.
      Even a Merkava can be used for rapid operations; it all depends on the men leading the tank forces.

      The first shot thing is about the tactical, not the operational level. A company can get the first salvo a dozen times if it delays and ambushes well. The change of position after revealing it and seeking of a new Lauerstellung/ambush position is an old AT tactic.

      Besides, the multi-million tag has been paid long ago for such tanks; these costs are now sunk. The relevant costs in places like Afghanistan are the costs of transport and supply, not of machine procurement.

    2. To put it a different way, Western tank design has become so aimed at one-on-one jousting that design has been compromised for more broad-use purposes. No question that AT ambush and delay withdrawal permits multiple first shot opportunities, but only where terrain permits, and in many cases those are tasks better suited to cheaper RR/AT missile teams and artillery spotters. Massing the armour on the frontal 60 degrees comes with a cost (I'm a big fan of the Leo family, but tell me the two main differences between this image http://tinyurl.com/mptr6pq
      and this one: http://tinyurl.com/kaqcsu2). Specialisation for tank-killing (with the assumption that every engagement will be head-on) has come at a cost of tactical flexibility. For western tanks it has also come with a vast logistics burden, and I'd argue it comes at the cost of struggling to deal with enemy forces either advancing or defending in great depth. The decision to go with quality over quantity and the associated financial costs (both in procurement and training) which limit the amount of quality we can buy mean that we may succeed with the first shot. Maybe the second one too. But if the enemy has more, plus local artillery and air support, then that advantage vanishes.

      But as you say, "it all depends on the men leading the tank forces."

  3. The tank even in modern warfare still strikes fear I think in a light infantry fight. The modern tank as been shown to be able to take a hit and keep fighting. What we see around the world is that many nations are gutting there tank forces. To be honest like there naval forces.