Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What Zoltan Dani can teach us

During the conflict in Yugoslavia, America used the latest and greatest of stealth technology, only to have an F-117 get shot down by an SA-3 unit commanded by Zoltan Dani.  His story is quite amazing, which you can get a snippet of on Wikipedia here:


What's more amazing is that Zoltan shot down the aircraft without a terribly advanced system.  There are a lot of lessons learned here:

1. Training can overcome technology limitations.  Zoltan didn't have great technology.  He faced an overwhelming threat from the U.S. Air Force, and indeed most of the other surface to air missile sites had already been destroyed.  However, his training overcame these limitations.  He worked his people hard before the conflict to be able to break down their systems faster than normal, so that they would be hard to hit.  His training was realistic, so much so that he fired some of his men who couldn't take the heat.

2. Innovation holds a multiplicative advantage.  The Argentinians surprised the British during the Falklands campaigns by using Exocet missiles in unique ways, going so far as to fire them from the shoreline and sink significantly damage the HMS Glamorgan.  Zoltan's willingness to modify the searching radar parameters so that they didn't tip off U.S. early warning systems helped him achieve two kills, plus the damage of sending stealth technology to Russia.

3. Innovation is not a replacement for good planning.  Despite this innovation, Yugoslavia came out on the losing side of the war, as did Argentina.  At best, innovation and training can make up for gaps in a plan, but a bad plan won't last in the long run.