What are some of the great military mistakes that changed the course of wars?
My answer to this question originally asked and answered on Quora is as follows:
One military mistake that may have had an impact on the Cold War, is the USSR’s decision to allow Pyotr Yakovlevich Ufimtsev to publish his research results internationally because they were considered by his administration of no significant military or economic value.
What research was this?
In the 1960s he began developing equations for predicting the reflection of electromagnetic waves from simple two-dimensional and three-dimensional objects.
What does this mean? Stealth.
(Or Low Observable aircraft if you prefer)
A stealth engineer at Lockheed, Denys Overholser, had read the publication and realized that Ufimtsev had created the mathematical theory and tools to do finite analysis of radar reflection. This discovery inspired and had a big role in the design of the first true stealth aircraft, the Lockheed F-117. Northrop also used Ufimtsev’s work to program super computers to predict the radar reflection of the B-2 bomber.
This allowed the US to develop planes such as the SR71
The first operational aircraft designed around a stealth aircraft shape and materials, the SR-71 had several features designed to reduce its radar signature. The SR-71 had a radar cross-section (RCS) around 110 sq ft (10 m2). Drawing on early studies in radar stealth technology, which indicated that a shape with flattened, tapering sides would reflect most energy away from a radar beam’s place of origin, engineers added chines and canted the vertical control surfaces inward.
As well as the F117
The stealth/LO capability that the US possessed would have factored into Soviet calculations during the Cold War, as to how likely they would be able to detect and destroy bombers on their first wave into the USA.
Or given how much money and resources the US has poured into and continues to pour into stealth perhaps it was the greatest beneficial mistake the Soviets made?
“Physics probably favors detection and the ultimate demise of stealthy systems.” So predicted the Hart-Rudman Commission in 1999. Sixteen years later, it’s time for the Department of Defense to ask tough questions about whether to continue investing scarce resources into stealth technology.
This declining efficacy calls into question continuing investments aimed at fielding a fleet of stealth combat aircraft. For a sense of scale, the Department of Defense will have invested approximately $600 billion (in then-year dollars) in the development and acquisition of four different stealth aircraft: the F-22, B-2, F-35, and LRS-B(assuming LRS-B costs do not rise and ignoring lifetime sustainment costs which are higher than for non-stealth aircraft).
And some info on Petr Ufimtsev — Wikipedia
Pyotr Yakovlevich Ufimtsev (Russian: Пётр Я́ковлевич Уфи́мцев) (born 1931 in Ust-Charyshskaya Pristan, West Siberian Krai, now Altai Krai) is a Soviet/Russianphysicist and mathematician, considered the seminal force behind modern stealth aircraft technology. In the 1960s he began developing equations for predicting the reflection of electromagnetic waves from simple two-dimensional and three-dimensional objects.
Ufimtsev was born into a peasant family in the village of Ust-Charysh Pristan (N 52.40, E 83.66), in the Altai region, of the RSFSR of the former USSR. At the age of 3 his father was repressed by the regime and later died in a forced-labor camp (GULAGsystem). In 1949 Ufimtsev finished school and entered the physics-math department at Almaty State University (now in Kazakhstan). Because of progressing myopia (nearsightedness) he had to move in 1952 from Almaty to a specialized clinic (the Filatov Eye Institute) located in Odessa, Ukrainian SSR. At the same year he continued his studies at the Odessa State University. After graduating from university in 1954 he was selected to work at the Central Research Radio Engineering Institute [ЦНИРТИ]of the Defense Ministry of USSR in Moscow, where he specialized in electronic warfare
A commentator has kindly pointed out that the SR71 wasn’t due to Ufimtsev’s work. Which as it was essentially developed from the A12 work which does predate it, then timeline no longer fits for the work to have had any involvement in the SR-71 or A-12.
Another commentator has kindly pointed out that I missed out why the Russians allowed the work to be published. Per the below the Russians didn’t believe that there were any commercial or strategic value with respect to the theories.
This is essentially the ‘great military mistake’ that the Russians made in not spotting the potential and allowing military rivals access to the information that then allowed them to develop increased the effectiveness of their Low Observable / Stealth aircraft.
What you have missed here is why Soviets allowed him to publish. Manufacturing tolerances needed to maintain stealth shapes were deemed to be unattainable by the Soviets, this is why whole idea appeared to them as little but an intellectual curiosity with no practical applications.
If you like this answer you may also like some of my other answers below.
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