From the history of weaponry: in search for a winning trade-off

Any weapon (as well as any technical system) is a trade-off between advantages and disadvantages. It is very difficult to correctly evaluate advantages and disadvantages of a new weapon in peace time until it is tested at war. That is why that weapon turns out to be winning, which advantages were underestimated and disadvantages overestimated in peace time. The history of warfare is full with examples of such misjudgement of the weaponry of the adversary with the catastrophic consequences for the other side.

One of the oldest one is Greek's sarissa (6m long pike). Its disadvantages were obvious:

  1. it had to be held by both hands, which precluded from carrying a shield;
  2. it decreased troops' maneuverability;
  3. etc
Its advantages were obvious too: long pikes could engage the enemy at a greater distance. But it seemed that its disadvantages overweighed its advantages and that sarissa could not be a weapon of victory. This judgement turned out to be totally wrong at war (largely due to the drills introduced by Alexander).

Similarly, Germany's success at the beginning of WWII was largely due to misjudgement of its weaponry by its adversaries. Its tanks were too light with a too thin armor and too small guns. The fact that they had advantage in difficult terrains was overlooked because battles were supposed to take place in normal terrains. The fact that Germans' tanks had a much higher speed was also ignored because war was supposed to be static (as WWI) rather than dynamic.

During the 1930s all countries strived to build aircrafts that could fly higher, faster and farther. Military aircrafts were not exception. It was assumed that air battles will unfold at a high altitude and that heavy fighters capable of reaching high altitudes fast will be the winners. But Germans started building Me-109, which was unable to reach high altitudes at all. The fact that it had advantage at low altitudes was ignored.

But it is up to the side which holds the initiative to choose on which terrain and at which altitude to wage war. This fact seemed to be forgotten. As a result Germans imposed battle conditions where its weapons were advantageous. They attacked in the mountainous terrain of Ardennes. They flew low forcing dog fights to take place at low altitudes, etc.

Correct estimation of which trade-off is going to win is difficult but very important. There are no techniques of doing so at present. TRIZ is of no help here because it is also a trade-off of a kind: it lays emphasis on contradictions resolution and neglects developing techniques of finding successful trade-offs. This issues aims to draw attention to this imbalance. Techniques of predicting and finding winning trade-offs are much more important than techniques of contradictions resolution.