I recently finished Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, by Robert Coram. The book tells the story of an Air Force fighter pilot who brought a radically different way of thinking about buying and flying fighter planes, the E-M Theory, the USAF. I highly recommend reading it yourself. (Huge thank you to Ryan Holiday for his reading list and monthly updates).
Energy Maneuverability theory is a model of aircraft performance. It was promulgated by Col. John Boyd, and is useful in describing an aircraft’s performance as the total of kinetic and potential energies or aircraft specific energy. It relates the thrust, weight, drag, wing area, and other flight characteristics of an aircraft into a quantitative model. This allows combat capabilities of various aircraft or prospective design trade-offs to be predicted and compared.
Boyd also came up with a theory about decision making in warfare, the OODA loop. The theory has since been applied more generally to how an entity reacts to an event.
Harry Hillaker (chief designer of the F-16) said of the OODA theory, “Time is the dominant parameter. The pilot who goes through the OODA cycle in the shortest time prevails because his opponent is caught responding to situations that have already changed.”
Boyd hypothesized that all intelligent organisms and organizations undergo a continuous cycle of interaction with their environment. Boyd breaks this cycle down to four interrelated and overlapping processes through which one cycles continuously:
- Observation: the collection of data by means of the senses
- Orientation: the analysis and synthesis of data to form one’s current mental perspective
- Decision: the determination of a course of action based on one’s current mental perspective
- Action: the physical playing-out of decisions