Attrition: Where Did It Hurt The Most?


October3, 2008:  U.S. Navy researchers are using a statistical analysis of x-rays of American military personnel killed by roadside bombs, and the details of the explosions, to determine what conditions were most likely to cause fatalities. Using this knowledge, it is easier to design more effective vehicle and personal armor, and protective measures in general. This is a technique pioneered over 60 years ago, in World War II. Back then, the new technique of Operations Research was used to figure out how to better protect American bombers from German anti-aircraft fire. This would appear to have been a serious problem, because researchers were unable to examine most of the aircraft that had not come back (aircraft that had been shot down over the English Channel or German occupied Europe). It was noted, however that all the damaged aircraft that had come back had been damaged in places that had not done so much damage that the aircraft were brought down. Thus the areas that were not hit were noted. Given that hundreds of aircraft were examined, by combining all this information, certain key areas appeared that received little or no damage in the aircraft that had returned. These must be the crucial areas that should be better protected. And so it proved to be. Certain control (cables and electrical wiring) and engine (hydraulic and fuel lines) components were rarely harmed in returning (but damaged) aircraft. Doing a little more math, and organizing information from aircrew on what types of damage caused them the most problems, it was possible to provide substantially increased protection to aircraft with a minimum amount of armor. When the newly equipped aircraft went into action, a higher percentage of aircraft returned. And many of these had dents in the armor protecting the key areas.

The navy researchers are using a similar approach, to find out where the fatal vulnerabilities are, and then try and figure out how to add more protection.





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