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Abstract

How do militaries integrate new technologies into their existing tactical arsenal? Often, militaries attempt to utilize new technology while not adjusting tactical practices. The existing literature on military innovation traditionally focuses on paradigmatic changes in strategy but misses most changes in technological innovation, which occur gradually at the tactical level. By examining cases of gradual innovation, a larger universe of cases can be captured, better explaining how militaries effectively adapt to new technology. This paper examines how militaries adapt at the tactical level by utilizing “tactical learning centers” designed to provide advanced education on particular tactical roles above and beyond traditional military vocational education to both develop a workable doctrine and diffuse this doctrine to the larger force. The study is a comparative historical case study. The two cases were the British Western Approaches Tactical Unit during the Second World War and the American Navy Fighter Weapons School during the Vietnam conflict. Findings show that the presence and utilization of these institutions increase, in relative gains terms, the efficiency of forces that are utilizing these new technologies.

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