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⚡️ Military influence to create surprise on a transparent battlefield?

History & strategy
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Near, make believe that you are far away, and far, that you are near; let him believe that you are weak where you are strong, and strong where you are weak". Sun Tsu reminds us that surprise has long been an objective of military leaders, seeking to deceive the enemy about their strength, position, or intent. In the same way, we have often sought to preserve security by preventing the enemy from acquiring intelligence about our dispositions and intentions.

Among the various levers at our disposal, deception operations have so far been an effective means of guaranteeing surprise and security. Consisting of actions of simulation, concealment and intoxication, deception actions aim to deceive the adversary of our intentions, so as to induce in him behaviours that favour the desired goal. They can be created in several ways.

The doctrinal corpus has recently been recast, formalised at the strategic level by a Military Strategy of Influence (MSI) and a Strategic Communication Directive (STRATCOM). Military influence is a function that plans and conducts special actions on the information environment (ASEI), civil-military actions (CIMIC), key leader engagement (KLE) and psychological operations (PSYOPS).

In the light of major technological advances and a certain transparency of the battlefield, can military influence, and in particular psychological operations, contribute to tactical surprise and safety, and if so how?

1. The Contextual Limits of Military Influence

11. Necessary narrative consistency of military influence

As the doctrines of France and NATO on military influence specify, the latter must be coherent: "The aim of strategic control is in particular to ensure the overall coherence of actions to guarantee the full convergence of effects ...".1. Thus the room for initiative at the tactical level for the design and conduct of influence actions with the aim of deception is limited. Indeed, it is necessary to "ensure that the message ... is not misinterpreted by another audience" ....2.

Thus, the effects of a tactical level intoxication action could be counterproductive in the long run for the strategy of influence conducted in a theatre. Indeed, deceiving an adversary through intoxication will have an impact on confidence in the force for the rest of the campaign. Any tactical or operative leader will therefore have to weigh the cost and benefit of an action of deception. The latter should be reserved for the preparation of major force actions.

12. Transparency and Infobesity Hinder Disappointment

Concealment seems doomed to failure in our operational environment: "At the tactical and operational levels there is a real struggle between detection and simulation capabilities. For many analysts, developments in the field of detection will - or already doom any attempt to surprise the enemy to failure. ...] some main current trends can be identified, accentuating the transparency of the battlefield: multiplication and precision of sensors, variety of signals collected, persistence of observation, acceleration of the speed of information transmission".3.

However, detection capabilities impact mainly on concealment, but less on intoxication and simulation. This being the case, masking intentions will require several changes: first of all a dilution of intentions4The SCORPION programme will allow this through its decentralised combat. Secondly, a technological upgrade of camouflage capabilities, whether passive or active, to allow concealment from a symmetrical enemy.

In addition, the mass of data generated by the big data will make it difficult for the military influence process to identify the target of a deception manoeuvre in time. The mass of information could therefore be a hindrance to deception operations carried out by military influence.

13. Cultural, ethical and moral limits to cunning

The law of armed conflict excludes any recourse to perfidy in operations. This law does not prohibit operations of military influence for the purpose of deception, but sets a framework for them. In France, however, the armies have had a certain restraint with regard to psychological operations. This fact, amplified by the events in Algeria, has its origin in the enhancement of the fine gesture, the figure of Bayard always prevailing over that of du Guesclin. This reticence, these moral limits to the use of trickery and PsyOps come on top of the relative youth (2018) of doctrinal publications of military influence. As a result, its appropriation by tactical and operational leaders is recent and therefore perfectible. Moreover, the nature of our recent operations, in which the operational superiority of the French armies is acquired, does not encourage recourse to trickery.

2. Lhe human and complex nature of the air-land environment makes it possible to disappoint through the influence of

21. The opacity of urban environments and technology (...) will allow for a certain dissimulation

On the one hand, tactics, like strategy, remain a "dialectic of wills".5. Thus, believing that advances in detection will not be offset by advances in concealment is illusory. Recent technological advances (absorbent coatings, sub-ionic metal flakes, dielectric conductive fibres) will make it possible to mask forces not only in the visible spectrum, but also from the optical to the infrared range.6.

On the other hand, the trend towards the displacement of conflicts in urban areas is increasing in the current wars. Taking into account the complexity of this "striated environment" is a major challenge.7 and by nature opaque is therefore unavoidable. But this difficulty will also bring opportunities: the opacity of the city will probably also facilitate manoeuvres of military influence. The presence of a population, connected or not, in large numbers will also bring opportunities to amplify intoxication.

22. The enemy leader and his environment remain human and therefore susceptible to influence.

Our potential or proven enemies, whether symmetrical, asymmetrical or asymmetrical, will remain human in nature, as well as their environment (staffs, populations, etc.). The staffs of regular or irregular forces, while all of them are more or less inclined to digitize, will always keep the human decision in their decision-making cycle. Therefore, military influence will always be able, at one time or another, to influence the enemy leader in his decision, by deceiving him on the intentions of his adversary. His environment (intelligence office for example) will also be vulnerable to deception manoeuvres carried out by the military influence chain (or targeting-wide-spectrum). This fact will be accentuated by the current trend towards increased data flow and big data, as we shall see below.

23. Infobesity also handicaps ENI

Infobesity 8Infobesity, understood as the enormous nature of the flow of information circulating in command posts (CPs), is a major difficulty for decision-making processes. Indeed, this information overload results in the addition of levels of synthesis and sorting, a slowing down of the decision-making cycle and above all a difficulty in properly exploiting intelligence. This would possibly involve recourse to new artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to exploit this big data. This use will necessarily lead to new vulnerabilities for all the protagonists. These will allow information to be manipulated down to the tactical level using vectors such as the cyber, taking advantage of the mass media, provided that there is a capacity for cyber action and coordination at these levels.

These opportunities for military influence at the tactical level should be seized. Certain means and modes of action such as cyber, EW and tactical decoys could thus find either a renewal or a new use within our army, provided that some means are agreed.

3. Lincreative military fluence of surprise and safety thanks to new technology

31. At low intensity, enemy leaders may be intoxicated by KLE actions.

Provided the SMI allows it, the intoxication of enemy leaders or key figures as part of a tactical deception manoeuvre is still possible at present in a low-intensity conflict. As explained above, a deception action of this kind should only be decided after weighing the potential consequences on the effects sought by the influence on the theatre. KLE actions with neutral actors are one possible mode of action to influence an enemy leader. Indeed, the complex nature of counter-insurgency conflicts and the links between different human groups in theatres of operation mean that the porosity between allied and enemy groups is often significant. Announcing an operation at a particular location on a specific date to an ally could lead to the disclosure of this information to the adversary. The difficulty with this mode of action would lie primarily in measuring the effectiveness of the action and in targeting the allied or neutral authorities to be influenced. To be effective, these KLE disinformation/poisoning actions should ideally be complemented by other vectors, such as LIO operations and even deception actions by CIMIC.

32. The cyber domain is a field for tactical level KLE maneuvers.

Actions in the cyber environment present interesting opportunities for conducting deception operations, in particular simulation and intoxication. Indeed, through the cyber vector, the adversary does not suspect the origin of the manoeuvre, as there is "inattention of attacks".9. Thus, LIO actions could technically spread a large number of false information to deceive the enemy, via social networks for example. The AI itself, used by the enemy to manage his information flow, presents a great vulnerability to the Cyber: luring input data, such as the learning process, remains technically feasible.

However, implementation would require sufficient cybernetic capabilities as well as a level that could coordinate them down to the tactical level.

33. The new technologies of leurres, physical or electronic warfare-based, would allow simulation/diversion manoeuvres to be conducted

The relative operational superiority of the West since the end of the Second World War has led to a certain oversight of various simulation techniques, be they diversion, demonstration, or feinting. The latter were used massively by the Russians and the Allies with Operation Fortitude and the various applications of maskirovka during the Second World War.

The prospects in the field of robotics and remotely controlled vehicles make it possible to envisage this type of action again, with a lower risk of human casualties and without handicapping the main action. Indeed, the concept of remotely piloted drone or robot swarms would make it possible to carry out diversions or demonstrations. Coupling these new techniques with the generation of false electronic "clouds", simulating melee units, could prove effective in simulating an effort in an area. Except that these units would have to have minimal aggression capabilities, to be able to maintain the diversion in the enemy. In France, the Operational Environment Liaison Detachments (DLEO), in charge of conducting military influence actions, are equipped with devices such as loudspeakers. They could potentially receive decoy devices, on the traditional or enhanced principle, and would allow for a relatively acceptable cost to have good deception capabilities at the tactical level. The British, for their part, plan in their future combat team concept to equip their future sub-groups with teams and resources dedicated to deception.

The capacities of military influence to create surprise are very real: the transparency of the battlefield will never be total and it will always keep a human side. By means of a necessary "vertical" coordination to guarantee the coherence of actions with the Military Influence Strategy, as well as a "vertical" coordination of actions with the Military Strategy of Influence, it is possible to ensure the coherence of actions with the Military Strategy of Influence, as well as a "vertical" coordination of actions. horizontal" coordination allowing to couple within the maneuver the different effects, kinetic or not; the military influence will allow to deceive the enemy on the friendly intentions. More than ever, disappointment will be necessary, as the possibilities of a new "tactical blockage" are real.

Despite increased transparency limiting the concealment of friendly forces, as well as a potential symmetry requiring the prior neutralisation of the enemy's ISTAR assets, military influence will make it possible,bytaking advantage of the complexity of the environment and new technologies, to achieve surprise by simulating and intoxicating the enemy.

Lost from sight for a while in the army, disappointment must, through Military Influence, makea comeback and be the object of new training, doctrine and endowments. These capabilities would make it possible to cope with future high-intensity combat. This deception, although it requires dedicated cells and means, must nevertheless be used by all forces: the manoeuvre is unique and the actions of concealment, simulation and intoxication must be integrated into it. As the question arises as to whether or not the principles of warfare should evolve, we may ask ourselves whether it would be appropriate to reformulate, and then introduce into our principles of warfare, the notions of disappointment and surprise.

1 DIA-3.10, Armed Forces Strategic Communication, page 19.

2 Ibid.

3 Rémy Hémez, Operations of Disappointment. Rethinking cunning in the 21st century, IFRI, page 44.

4 Guy Hubin, Perspectives tactiques, ECONOMICA, 2009.

5 André Beaufre, Introduction à la stratégie, FAYARD, 1963.

6 Rémy Hémez, Operations of Disappointment. Rethinking cunning in the 21st century, IFRI, page 44.

7 Olivier Kempf, Introduction à la cyberstrategie, ECONOMICA, 2012.

8 Fabrice Clée / Lettres de la doctrine N° 12/ Reflections on the fundamental principles of operational decision-making in the Army. CDEC, August-September 2018.

9 Olivier Kempf, Op. cit.


1.  Winninga war today? under the direction of Colonel Stéphane CHALMIN "the role of technology in victory", excerpt: "Between the time required to carry out an armament programme and the military and political foresight that makes it possible to know the conditions under which these weapons systems are used, the gap is becoming more and more obvious".

2. Massu Suzanne, Quand j'étais Rochambelle, 1969.

3. Bernard Schnetzler, Tomorrow's War - Strategic and Tactical Developments.

4.War establishment tables, organization of the 2nd AD.

5. Les évolutions des structures de combat, CDEC, Lettre de la doctrine n° 6.

6.Are technical developments leading us towards a new tactical stalemate? CBA Rémy Hémez, Stratégique n° 112, p. 113-124.

7. Theoretical Tactics, Michel Yakovleff.

8. Plan Stratégique de Recherches et Technologies, DGA, 2016.

9. Analyse coût-avantage appliquée à la question des robots militaires, La guerre robotisée, Ghislain Dutheil de La Rochère.

10. SCORPION exploratorydoctrine.

11.  CRCO"Swarm operations: an old concept to be revisited in the light of SCORPION combat? "CBA Peter, CDT Brulais, CES Terrier.

Title : ⚡️ Military influence to create surprise on a transparent battlefield?
Author (s) : le chef de bataillon Vincent Mariel