Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War

A biography of the fighter pilot John Boyd who went on to develop theories of combat.

Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War

Chapter 9. Thermo, Entropy, and the Breakthrough

He added more notes, more thoughts, more equations. And then he put it away and went into what he called his “draw-down period,” thinking, “Oh, hell. Somebody has already done this.” If what he had discovered was work done by someone else, he did not want to waste more time

Chapter 13. “I’ve Never Designed a Fighter Plane Before”

Boyd rocked on his heels. He looked the colonel squarely in the eye. In his most earnest and sincere tone he said, “Sir, I’ve never designed a fighter plane before.” Then he paused and nodded toward the design studies stacked on the table. “But I could fuck up and do better than that.”

Chapter 24.

The OODA Loop briefing contains 185 slides. Early in the briefing the slide “Impressions” gives the frame of reference for what is to come. Here Boyd says that to shape the environment, one must manifest four qualities: variety, rapidity, harmony, and initiative. A commander must have a series of responses that can be applied rapidly; he must harmonize his efforts and never be passive. To understand the briefing, one must keep these four qualities in mind.

The answer is that the Blitzkrieg is far more than the lightning thrusts that most people think of when they hear the term; rather it was all about high operational tempo and the rapid exploitation of opportunity. In a Blitzkrieg situation, the commander is able to maintain a high operational tempo and rapidly exploit opportunity because he makes sure his subordinates know his intent, his Schwerpunkt. They are not micromanaged, that is, they are not told to seize and hold a certain hill; instead they are given “mission orders.” This means that they understand their commander’s overall intent and they know their job is to do whatever is necessary to fulfill that intent. The subordinate and the commander share a common outlook.

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