Be agile and win:

Agility More thoughts from Chet Richards on agility, sensing yourself and the world around you as you interact and accord with adversarial changes. In the mental and physical dimensions of conflict, understanding the principle of agility when leveraged can have profound effects on outcomes on the street. Ones whole body must act as his eyes and ears. This is where experience and the intuitive fingertip feel for the situation and tactical judgment comes into play in helping you shape and reshape the unfolding situation.

“The essence of conflict is a struggle between two hostile, independent, and irreconcilable wills, trying to impose itself on the other. Conflict is fundamentally an interactive social process. Conflict is thus a process of continuous mutual adaptation, of give and take, move and counter move. It is critical to keep in mind that the adversary is not an inanimate object to be acted upon but an independent and animate force with its own objectives and plans. While we try to impose our will on the adversary, he resists us and seeks to impose his own will on us. Appreciating this dynamic interplay between opposing human wills is essential to understanding the fundamental nature of conflict.” ~Warfighting, USMC

Be agile and win

As we have seen, Boyd thought highly of what appears to be agility, but never used the word (with one exception) and never defined it in print. Several years after he quit distributing updated charts in 1986, he did change the “Theme for Vitality and Growth,” chart 144, to include “agility,” but he still didn’t define it.

While giving his presentations, though, Boyd would talk about agility, and he usually divided it between physical and mental (you cannot, as he would slyly remark, have “moral agility,” because that would be no morals at all!)

So let’s start with physical agility, which is what most people mean by the word: a running back dodging a block and jumping a tackler; a point guard threading a way to the net. As far as I know, the use of the term in modern military strategy began with the analysis of air-to-air fighters in the 1960s (I could be wrong, but it’s not important to Boyd’s ultimate concept), which Boyd encapsulated as:

The ability to shift or transition from one maneuver to another more rapidly than an adversary enables one to win in air-to-air combat. (Strategic Game, 42)

A “maneuver” is a change in airspeed, altitude, or direction in any combination. Climbing, diving, accelerating, decelerating, turning, turning-while-climbing, diving-and-accelerating-while-turning, and Boyd’s favorite: climbing-or-turning-while-(rapidly)-decelerating. These are all maneuvers. “Agility,” then, is the ability of the aircraft to change from doing one of these to doing another. Boyd claimed in the quote just above that such agility is the key to winning dogfights.

Well, that, plus be able to make such changes more rapidly than an opponent. Physical agility implies a time element. It is not the same as “flexibility” or “maneuverability.”  It is possible, in fact, to be more maneuverable but less agile, like the MiG-15 compared to the F-86.

If we’re talking about machines, say, the types of fighter aircraft that Boyd flew, we can give a mathematical description of agility that depends on such factors as the responsiveness of the aircraft’s control system, the area of the wing, power of the engine, size of the control surfaces, stability, and other purely physical factors.

Physical agility can provide a huge advantage if the pilot is able to use it. When we talk about the aircraft transitioning from one maneuver to another, it is because the human in the cockpit made the decision to change maneuvers, which includes what maneuver to change to and when to start the transition.

You can start to see the original idea for the OODA loop taking shape: the pilot observed what was going on, figured this into the understanding of how the situation was unfolding, selected a new maneuver (made a decision), and attempted to execute it.

Read the rest of Chet’s analysis here: