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Tuhkachevskii: Deep Battle and Op Art

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Context: He led major operations during the Civil War of 1918-1921 and had great success during the Revolution. He built the Red Army and focused on the concept of the deep battle and using the environment of liberal thinking in the Soviet military at the time to gain acceptance of his ideas. He was executed by Stalin in 1937 because of his close association and sympathies with some of the Western ideas, his concepts likely were fundamental to the Soviet victory during WWII.

Thesis: Create and advocate a military concept that was able to fill the large gap between strategy and tactics. His concept originated operational art and the concept of deep battle which combined simultaneous operations across a large front with mobility and fire power to penetrate deep into an enemy's lines and annihilate the enemy. It is exceptionally offensively minded.


- The destruction of the enemy is the path to military success.

-- To do so requires a series of attacks that rapidly exploit victory to maintain the initiative and assure final destruction of the enemy.
-- Deep battle creates a simultaneous disruption of the enemy's tactical layout over its entire depth.
-- Penetrate the enemy and drive toward the rear elements. Use this penetrating force to envelope the enemy.

- Operations must incorporate all aspects of military power and actions must be coordinated in detail to maximize effectiveness.

- Operations must utilize centralized control and decentralized execution

-- A commanders control must be firm
-- Subordinates must act with independence and initiative within the limits imposed by their commanders

- He recognized the impact of technology and saw the necessity of incorporating technological innovations.

- Discounts Fuller's socio-political views but finds value in his works

-- Does not agree with Fuller's assessment that mass can be replaced with mobility

- Resupply and an adjusted logistical system must accompany deep battle operations

Implications for Strategy

- Developed a link between tactics and strategy - operational art

- The concept of deep battle leveraged technological innovations and an operational perspective to use speed, mobility, fire power, and coordination to rapidly and aggressively attack the enemy and annihilate him through a series of simultaneous actions.

-- Maintaining the initiative and continuing to pressure the enemy were the key aspects of these operations

- Operations could only be maximally effective if joint capabilities were coordinated and supported by proper logistics

- His foresight was well ahead of his time, and it was not until over forty years later that the United States recognized the value of his concepts.

Sugar's Tips on Tuhkachevskii

Reasons why we’re studying Tukhachevskii

It’s useful in understanding the Russian mindset, both for analyzing history and assessing its continuing legacy in former Soviet Block forces. From the forward to David Glanz’s Soviet Military Operational Art: In Pursuit of Deep Battle:

“…(Despite the fact that the USSR was disintegrating at the time the book was published in 1991), whatever its future, Marxist thought (the intellectual underpinning Soviet style operational art) leaves a most important legacy. It may no longer be the native faith of Lenin’s day but it has given to the population of the USSR a framework of thought and a code of behavior that is likely to persist for a long time. Mingled inextricably with Russian values and attitudes, it has shaped the Soviet military mind and given the Soviet military system distinct institutions, values, and ways of thinking which we in the West simply do not have, or have in very different measure...The failure to appreciate the impact of thinking and planning on this larger scale was one of the main reasons for e the German defeat at the hands of the Red Army in the Second World War…whilst he (the German field commander on the WWII Eastern Front) was winning his tactical victory, the entire army of which he was a part of was being engulfed in a catastrophic encirclement on a scale which the German commanders could not grasp “ .

– Christopher Donnelly, RMA Sandhurst

Second, it highlights how relatively new the operational level of warfare is as an intellectual construct in military theory, despite the fact that large scale operations had been conducted for centuries before the level was described. The intro reading they assigned us (written in 1932, an important fact to note) details how the increasing complexity of the means of war in many ways contributed to the need for an adequate description of this level of warfare.

In 1991 when Donnelly wrote this, he also remarked that “the west lacks the formal framework of doctrine which is such a feature of the Soviet system”. While US works like 1936’s “Sound Military Decision” (arguably the op art underpinning of the island hopping campaign in the Pacific - attached) had detailed many of the considerations of operational level planning, Western doctrine had only first mentioned the operational level of war in 1950 (based on lecture notes from my SAMS prep course, not sure the doc), and despite the American experiences with large forces in both WWI and WWII the operational level of warfare was not spelled out in Army doctrine in the 1982 edition of FM 100-5, which introduced it as part of the “Airland Battle” concept. Thus, it’s no surprise that we’re still grappling with operational level warfare and how to C2 it. The development of operational level doctrine came hand in hand with the new concepts of “jointness” institutionalized the 1986 Goldwater Nichols Act, and I’d argue that we’re still figuring out what this all looks like in practice.

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