Christmas movie and versatility vs. specialisation

It was difficult to keep up with the weekly schedule after I discarded some unsatisfactory texts, thus I present you my favourite Christmas movie to beef this blog post up:

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A comment recently pointed out that my stance on warships (in favour of multi-role) differs from my stance on IFVs (criticising multi-role).
There were entire blogs and book author careers dedicated to apply one and the same idea over and over again to many different topics. I remember a mil blog where the author obsessed about "small and lightweight" in all military topics, for example.

I try to avoid this approach of setting up an ideological template and then to squeeze the whole world through this one template. I've been wary of those people in my own professional life who came to meetings with lots of general experiences and then just assumed that they know experience-based answers to problems without thinking about (or even only knowing) the specific case. They were blundering most of the time (and usually nobody called them out because they tended to be superiors in the hierarchy, or powerful/influential in some other way). Those people are usually utterly unaware of how much nonsense they spout, how much they waste everyone's time and how much damage they do.

Here's an example of how very different answers can be from one and the same person on seemingly almost the same subject:

Armoured fighting vehicles should in my opinion be rather specialised (combat, transportation, indirect fire support, standoff electronic warfare et cetera) when they're meant for use in a formation (battalion battlegroup, for example). This is where they can complement and support each other. A jack of all trades armoured fighting vehicle would be extremely expensive, extremely heavy (70+ tons) and most of its capabilities would be ineffective most of the time.

Meanwhile, the picture is completely different when we look at armoured reconnaissance, skirmishing, raiding on land (LRDG-style). These activities would be done with small units (2...4 vehicles) as manoeuvre elements, and these manoeuvre elements  might be separated by distances that make close cooperation of more than two such small units unlikely. The use of specialised vehicles causes a lack of capability (or at the very least lack of redundancy, and thus robustness) in such a case. Such small units' vehicles should have versatility prioritised over some other qualities, such as protection or ambition (air defence could be very short range instead of area air defence, for example).

I try to not be a template zealot who forces one way on all things. The extremism of pursuing such a template approach or of following an outright ideology is inconsistent with the lessons of (military) history. History shows the success and superiority of varied, tailored approaches, and the optimum changes as available technology and environment changes over time.


Comments are set to obligatory moderation, and moderating/unlocking may cause days of delay because of the Christmas time. 


  1. There is the industry perspective on this as well. Advertising. The multi-use-platform-wonder-program can be sold both by the contractor, generals and the public to the politicians because, "Its multi role, we can consolidate costs in one platform, it will save us money.". The way this seems to shake out is, after the money is assigned the program is then disaggregated (though it still carries some 'scars'). The 'multi-role' is just to break static friction and get it rolling. Look at F35 and part commonality between the models.

    Could also be the propensity of idiot savants to search out optimisation in solid geometry (CDF, they scream).

    Have you seen "The Pentagon Wars", 1998? Worth a watch if you havent.

    Herzliche Weihnachtsgrüße S O.

    1. https://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2012/02/blog-post.html :-)

  2. Taking the F-35 as an example, and following on the same trend recommenced by the FA-18, multirole definitely has its merits. It has been made much more practical and relevant by advances in sensor and weapon technology which free the aircraft's competitiveness from its aerodynamic characteristics and, to a large extent, its load carrying ability. Standoff weapons and in flight refuelling have made unrefuelled range less relevant again reducing the need for a dedicated long range naval strike platform. Not so long ago, a US carrier might have carried dedicated fighter (F-14), light attack (A-7) and heavy attack (A-16) aircraft. Toward the end of their career some F-14s took on recce and limited air to surface roles and the A-6F may have carried AMRAAM, but role specific aircraft were very much the way the USN operated. They had gotten even more so with the transition from the multirole F-4 to the single role F-14. We could add that the EA-6B had no offensive capability until late in its career - even then confined to the AGM-88 whereas the EA-18G is a fully functional FA-18 in all respects except the lack of a gun. If you have wargamed the use of a USN CVN via Harpoon, CMANO or similar, you will have realised what a huge boon multirole aircraft are.