Intelligence: Operations Research and Armor Placement


September 22, 2005: The U.S. Army practice of carefully examining the scene of each combat incident pays off in many ways, some of them not so obvious. For example, the effects of enemy fire (bullets, bombs, RPGs, Etc.) on American equipment is carefully noted. This has resulted in a steady stream of information for the companies that make armor, both for vehicles and the stuff the troops wear. Some of this battlefield advice is given to the troops as well, when it is noted that using equipment a certain way can lead to casualties. 

Perhaps the largest number of "suggestions" has been given to the companies that make armor kits for U.S. trucks. These include things like how the bullet proof ("ballistic") glass should be attached to the vehicle, and how the armor itself should be installed. The results of analysis of past attacks produces guidelines on what parts of the vehicle to armor, and to what degree. The information has also been given to troop units, as there is still some do-it-yourself armoring going on. Studies of this kind were first performed during World War II, in an attempt to reduce casualties on American heavy bombers operating over Germany. For example, Operations Researchers noted what parts of the bombers that were NOT damaged on aircraft that returned from missions where there was a lot of enemy fire (from fighters or anti-aircraft guns). Many of these areas usually contained vital components which, if damaged, could bring the bomber down. So those areas received some more protection, and bomber losses declined.

This kind of analysis is called Operations Research, and rarely gets credit for the many life-saving improvements it leads to. Operations Research is one of the great new scientific tools developed during the 20th century, and is regularly used throughout modern economies, as well as by the military.


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