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The Value of Flanking Maneuvers -- underestimated?

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The Value of Flanking Maneuvers -- underestimated?
Post by SharkHunter   » Mon Dec 30, 2019 3:57 am

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Across many threads, we dissect the space battles, etc. and as I've thought about it, I'm thinking about the "wall of battle" mentality that governs fleet actions in the Haven / RMN war and the tactical approach taken by the SLN, and in theory taught in the various Naval Academies... It doesn't make much sense.

Given that any space battle is basically "submarines in space" except the ability to communicate ship-to-ship for coordination, doesn't it seem unlikely that there wouldn't be more emphasis on flanking maneuvers, as that is aways a superior attack? It's essentially --no particular order here -- what the Peeps attempt at Nightingale, forcing White Haven to withdraw, or what White Haven and D'Orville pull on Parnell's ships at 2nd Yeltsin, Minotaur's LACs, the Battle of Manticore where the RHN almost wins by mousetrapping 3rd Fleet by setting up a kill box by predicting where Kuzak's forces will come in on the flank, etc.

"Present" Honorverse: Give me any wall of battle and let my ships attack on edge with say Sag-Cs with Mark-16Gs, and a couple missile colliers, while the distracting main wall of battle seems to be setting up. Properly timed, they wreak havoc on any attack, do they not? because the wall can't fight through itself, and the Sag-C's bow walls are a force multiplier. Thoughts?
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All my posts are YMMV, IMHO, and welcoming polite discussion, extension, and rebuttal. This is the HonorVerse, after all
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Re: The Value of Flanking Maneuvers -- underestimated?
Post by cthia   » Mon Dec 30, 2019 7:02 am

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I certainly agree. Many of the traditional aspects of war just don't seem to hold water in the Honorverse.

Son, your mother says I have to hang you. Personally I don't think this is a capital offense. But if I don't hang you, she's gonna hang me and frankly, I'm not the one in trouble. —cthia's father. Incident in ? Axiom of Common Sense
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Re: The Value of Flanking Maneuvers -- underestimated?
Post by Jonathan_S   » Mon Dec 30, 2019 5:44 pm

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The classic advantage of the Honorverse flanking attack is it prevents the wall being flanked from interposing their wedge against all attackers once combat closes to energy range. It has the additional benefit that the flanking attack can be positions such that the flanked wall is finds it hard to avoid taking some of the fire down the throat or up the kilt; where there's no sidewall to provide protection.

The issue with pulling it off is that without a ludicrously higher acceleration advantage you usually can't pull it off without herding the enemy into a prepared ambush of ships lying doggo. If they can see the flanking force trying to work their way around they can simply adjust their heading to keep them from achieving a position crossing their 'T'.

Given MDMs this gets even harder because a light flanking force like you suggest, even if taking extra time to work they way around, might become the focus of a salvo or three from the entire enemy wall. Even if that salvo has to coast to reach the flanking force. Without a massive tech advantage CAs aren't going to withstanding salvos from a wall of SDs.

Now trying to herd the enemy into a prepared trap can still work. But most people have been improving their scouting abilities. Manticore with Ghost Rider recon drones with FTL comms, and Haven with recon LACs that can take the light-speed links from their shorter ranged RDs and relay info FTL back to their main body. It sucks to be the recon LAC that stumbled over the flanking ambush - but better to lose a scout or two than walk the fleet into the ambush. The new variation on that is a back-up fleet waiting in hyper for a relay ship queue by FTL signals to let them know when/where to drop out to trap an invading force between themselves and the in-system defense.


Also now that combat in almost exclusive long range MDM fire the advantages to achieving a flank position are reduced (though not eliminated). Manticore's SD(P)s at least can fire all their CMs at targets coming from any aspect (thanks to Keyhole and off-bore firing) and bow & stern walls are becoming common removing some advantage of a throat/kilt shot. Plus even missiles fired from the broadside aspect can, if the tac officers want them to, try to hit the hammerheads as they fly past the nose or tail of the target.


If these were actually submarines where they could take a shot and have a reasonable chance of breaking contact by submerging then having light forces try for a flank shot makes sense. But in an environment where flanking attempts tend to be spotted and brought under fire you need both the main force and the flankers to be powerful enough to avoid defeat in detail should the enemy choose to temporarily focus all their fire on one of them.
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Re: The Value of Flanking Maneuvers -- underestimated?
Post by kzt   » Mon Dec 30, 2019 6:35 pm

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Jonathan_S wrote:If these were actually submarines where they could take a shot and have a reasonable chance of breaking contact by submerging then having light forces try for a flank shot makes sense.

Hey, I think there is a Navy like that out there...
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Re: The Value of Flanking Maneuvers -- underestimated?
Post by cthia   » Mon Dec 30, 2019 7:02 pm

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In the Honorverse, flanking maneuvers have taken a sneaky turn and can actually work better. Especially when your perceived threat level is greater than it looks.

Also, hiding in hyper turns a flank into a pincer. Well, sometimes, right Tourville?

Son, your mother says I have to hang you. Personally I don't think this is a capital offense. But if I don't hang you, she's gonna hang me and frankly, I'm not the one in trouble. —cthia's father. Incident in ? Axiom of Common Sense
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Re: The Value of Flanking Maneuvers -- underestimated?
Post by Loren Pechtel   » Mon Dec 30, 2019 9:47 pm

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Defense range vastly exceeds the size of a fleet. Thus a fleet has basically equal defenses against threats from all directions. It's not like a land battle where a force will be basically laid out in a line and can't defend nearly as well against a threat from the end of the line.

At energy range you make it harder for the other guys to avoid a down-the-throat shot but energy range battles basically do not exist anymore.

On the flip side, in order to flank you split your force. Since the ships can easily fire to the side they can easily bring their full firepower to bear against the flankers. It's basically a suicide mission.

Note, however, that we have seen multiple cases of pincer movements--always by forces of considerable superiority and done to keep the other guy from being able to run away.
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Re: The Value of Flanking Maneuvers -- underestimated?
Post by cthia   » Tue Dec 31, 2019 3:00 am

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Loren Pechtel wrote:Defense range vastly exceeds the size of a fleet. Thus a fleet has basically equal defenses against threats from all directions. It's not like a land battle where a force will be basically laid out in a line and can't defend nearly as well against a threat from the end of the line.

At energy range you make it harder for the other guys to avoid a down-the-throat shot but energy range battles basically do not exist anymore.

On the flip side, in order to flank you split your force. Since the ships can easily fire to the side they can easily bring their full firepower to bear against the flankers. It's basically a suicide mission.

Note, however, that we have seen multiple cases of pincer movements--always by forces of considerable superiority and done to keep the other guy from being able to run away.

Unless you flunked your estimation of the flankers threat level, because they are actually shoals upon shoals of LACs that are going to be driving hard to energy range.

Pincers also attrit and dilute the enemy's offensive and defensive capabilities.

Also note that firing offbore is not widely available to all navies. Which leads to the notion that traditional tactics may be less or more effective depending on the particular navy and what that navy brought with them to the party.

Son, your mother says I have to hang you. Personally I don't think this is a capital offense. But if I don't hang you, she's gonna hang me and frankly, I'm not the one in trouble. —cthia's father. Incident in ? Axiom of Common Sense
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Re: The Value of Flanking Maneuvers -- underestimated?
Post by SharkHunter   » Tue Dec 31, 2019 10:26 am

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--snipping--
Loren Pechtel wrote:Defense range vastly exceeds the size of a fleet. Thus a fleet has basically equal defenses against threats from all directions. It's not like a land battle where a force will be basically laid out in a line and can't defend nearly as well against a threat from the end of the line.

That is not my understanding of the shape of a "battle wall" and broadside fire vs. tubes, though pods change the equation somewhat. That's why a ship also has "chaser tubes" usually both in the bow and stern, though IIRCs SD(p)s to not have chase tubes. So I picture the wall as more like a "slightly curved plate in space" once in turns to open fire.

As described, walls then engage in a fundamentally 2D converging or passing actions, closing at whatever relative accel is deemed necessary to keep from getting pinned. Once the wall is formed, there's a real limit on per-ship actions. When the ships are firing broadside, they're aimed downrange and have much less bow and stern CM fire available, open ends of the wedge, etc. Plus, only the RMN currently has that off bore capability.

That's why anything larger than a squadron has screening ships, to stop that exact kind of cruiser vs. flanking action. Plus the smaller ships can maneuver freely and thus absorb some of the attacks that would otherwise be hitting the wall.

Pod wise, non-pod layers had to be bow forward to the enemy wall which is part of why salvo(s) tended to be a "one-shot" (use 'em or lose 'em being the main reason) Yes, keyhole and pod-layers change the equation in profound ways, but the plate in space mostly lasts up to Filerata's Folly, where Honor has the screening ships in a more bowl-shaped defensive groups, LACs plugging niches. [yes, I know there are prior actions with different shapes as well...] Even with pods, the SD's are still the most dangerous ships so much of the defensive CM fire still has to be launched towards the other wall.

Am I missing something? or am I right that even a single Sag-C and plus a Charles Taylor class collier would still have disproportionate effect out on that edge?
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Re: The Value of Flanking Maneuvers -- underestimated?
Post by Loren Pechtel   » Tue Dec 31, 2019 3:28 pm

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cthia wrote:
Loren Pechtel wrote:Defense range vastly exceeds the size of a fleet. Thus a fleet has basically equal defenses against threats from all directions. It's not like a land battle where a force will be basically laid out in a line and can't defend nearly as well against a threat from the end of the line.

At energy range you make it harder for the other guys to avoid a down-the-throat shot but energy range battles basically do not exist anymore.

On the flip side, in order to flank you split your force. Since the ships can easily fire to the side they can easily bring their full firepower to bear against the flankers. It's basically a suicide mission.

Note, however, that we have seen multiple cases of pincer movements--always by forces of considerable superiority and done to keep the other guy from being able to run away.

Unless you flunked your estimation of the flankers threat level, because they are actually shoals upon shoals of LACs that are going to be driving hard to energy range.

Pincers also attrit and dilute the enemy's offensive and defensive capabilities.

Also note that firing offbore is not widely available to all navies. Which leads to the notion that traditional tactics may be less or more effective depending on the particular navy and what that navy brought with them to the party.


While most fleets can't fire off-bore it doesn't take long to turn the ship to shoot at whoever you want to shoot at. Manticore developed the off-bore shooting to allow stacking of missiles, not to engage flankers.

And so what if the flankers are LACs? It's going to take them quite a while to close to effective range. In the MDM era there's almost no short range battles. Energy weapons basically don't matter.
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Re: The Value of Flanking Maneuvers -- underestimated?
Post by Brigade XO   » Tue Dec 31, 2019 5:09 pm

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You have to remember what flanking actions typicaly are.

Usually is starts with a surprise, and things move from there. Somebody is going to beat on at least a part of your force and the geometry of the dealing with essentialy two opponent forces puts one smaller segment of your forces in a bad situation

The relative geomentry ends up being the same be it a line of infantry, a fleet on the ocean, a fleet in space. Somebody is now in a place that is or can seriously hurt you and you have to decide if you can beat them off, escape getting shot up, escape even if you get a bit shot, or it's gone to hell and - congratulations, you are on death's ground, sell yourself dearly.

At the very least they complicate command thinking and reaction and add confustion to your battle plan. Usually they are a surprise and you have to change things to keep from blowing out of control and you lose people (or ships or tanks or aircraft) with the result that your losses start to cascade and control is lost........your force falls apart and gets fully or partialy destroyed.

Somebody had gotten or will get themselves into a position where they can cocentrate a usualy smaller but superior force on portion of your main force. That has the immeidate problem of diverting a portion of your force (or firepower) to try to destroy or beat off the attacker. The typical challange is that what is diverted both isn't available avaiable againt your initial target and becomes a weak spot in your offence (or defense depending on what you are up to.
In either the linear warfare or the more "fluid" modern warfare, the flanking opponent can destroy what small portion of his enemy that he is facing and then roll-up the rest of the enemy forces from the side or back.

That is what is happening when you send in a force hiding in hyperspace or have ships lying in wait or you can spring a minefield of pods on the opponant.
They HAVE to react. Even if they determing that the new force isn't (probably) going to be enough danger to your own people, you have to think about it and make a decision.
Look at the kinds of thought streams we get when a commander discovers there is something added that can -eventualy- start shooting at him. Time, distance, your speed now, what your max speed is, what his speed is, what his probable max speed is (and what he is willing to accelerate at), enemy missle ranges, your own missle ranges, can he engage you and when. can and when will you be able to engage him. etc, etc, etc.

Can you (or are you willing to) accept an engagement (at missile range, at energy range) from X force given what you think you know about them and 1) compleat your mission, 2) survive, 3) hurt and or destroy enough of his ships to be worth the cost to you? 4) can you avoid his engagement and what will you need to do?
The problem we ususaly do see is that the flanking attack rarely leaves you the option of getting away with compleating your mission without much higher probable injury to your force and you risk being pummeled if not defeated in detail, particularly if you need to send part of your force to deal with the new problem.
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