Swarming tactics have been used successfully in wars throughout history by a variety of organizations from the tribal Parthians (horse archers) to 20th century Germans (U-boats). Global guerrillas (next generation terrorists) will likely use swarming tactics as part of their doctrine. This technique, in combination with new market-based financing techniques is what's called a killer combo.
A good place to start an analysis of swarming is Sean Edwards' "Swarming on the Battlefield (PDF downloads). Here's his excellent definition of swarming: a primary maneuver that results in an attack from multiple directions (all points on the compass) by 5 or more (semi) autonomous units on a single target/unit.
It's easy to see the advantages of this type of maneuver:
- It cuts the enemy target off from supply and communications.
- It adversely impacts the moral of the target.
- It makes a coordinated defense extremely difficult (resource allocation is intensely difficult).
- It radically increases the potential of surprise.
Swarming is typically divided into two types:
Massed swarming -- Swarmers begin as a massed unit. They break apart and then swarm on target.
Dispersed swarming -- Units are dispersed (geographically) from the start. Once a target is identified, they converge to attack. This is the most difficult of the two types of swarming to defend against since the attacker never presents a massed target.
Historically, swarming is successful only when it scores high in the following areas:
- Elusiveness -- either through mobility or concealment.
- Long range firepower -- standoff capability.
- Superior situational awareness -- having more information about the enemy than they have about you.
Swarming contra infrastructure systems: guerre de course
Given this background, how will global guerrillas use swarming? First, the target for global guerrillas won't be isolated military units but rather urban infrastructure systems. The objective of these attacks will be damage that results in economic attrition. Let's examine how global guerrilla's will leverage swarming tactics to accomplish this objective.
How global guerrilla swarmers will surmount traditional limits to operations.
Historically, swarmers have been limited by terrain, logistics, and communications. Global guerrillas will not be constrained by these limits. This makes global guerrilla swarming unique to history as can be seen in the attached 2x2 matrix. The upshot is that global guerrillas will be able to conduct dispersed swarming maneuvers on the operational level. Here's how global guerrillas will surmount the traditional limits on swarming:
- Ubiquitous public transportation networks (roads to airlines) enable rapid, low-cost transportation for dispersed units.
- Logistics requirements can be met via open economic transactions and don't require population support. The requirements for operations are relatively limited (damage to infrastructure requires low-tech tools). Additionally, the small size of the cells (~5 people) requires little housing/food/etc and in most cases would fall well below the threshold of detection.
- Real-time, anonymous, wireless communications (both data and voice -- VoIP, e-mail, Web, cellphones, etc.) enable global guerrillas to coordinate dispersed operations on the operational level. Tactical operations will be of a conventional type, typically by a single unit or individual.