An agile interlude

Here’s a chart where Boyd lays out the power of agility (click to enlarge):

It’s chart 44 from Strategic Game, which makes some extraordinary claims about what you can do to adversaries by operating at a “faster tempo or rhythm” than they can.

To see that this really is agility, you may need to go back to one of the precursor charts in this “illuminating example,” where Boyd mentions again that :

The ability to shift or transition from one maneuver to another more rapidly than an adversary enables one to win in air-to-air combat. (SG 42)

This is the classic definition of “agility.”  What Boyd is suggesting is that even if your maneuvers don’t lead to a kill, just by being able to exercise a higher degree of agility (in this sense) over a period of time will end the contest in your favor.  Your opponent might, for example, lose control of the aircraft or, with the ability to carry on collapsed, just punch out.

In Patterns of Conflict, Boyd made a similar claim when he wrote that operating inside an opponent’s OODA loop would “Generate uncertainty, confusion, disorder, panic, chaos … to shatter cohesion, produce paralysis and bring about collapse.” (132)

Is “operate inside OODA loop” the same as “operate at a faster tempo or rhythm”? The answer to that is apparently “no,” because Boyd draws a distinction between the two concepts early in Patterns:

Idea of fast transients suggests that, in order to win, we should operate at a faster tempo or rhythm than our adversaries—or, better yet, get inside adversary’s observation-orientation-decision-action time cycle or loop. (5, emphasis added)

Strategic Game 44 shows the power of operating “at a faster tempo or rhythm than our adversaries,” and Patterns 5 says that operating inside their OODA loops is even better! What is the relationship between them? Is either the ultimate expression of “agility”?

We will continue to explore.

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