See It Like Jones Would: Leverage the Opponent’s Capability


As a quick introduction to classic R. V. Jones thinking, the following example is tailor-made. During World War II, the British learned that the Germans were setting up a radio navigation system in northwest Spain to assist German U-boats and aircraft in the Bay of Biscay. Of course, the expected British riposte would be to jam the system or perhaps pressure the Spanish government to withdraw the Germans’ privilege.

As Jones notes in Most Secret War,

Happily the thought occurred to me that we were operating more aircraft over the Bay of Biscay than the Germans were. I therefore telephoned Chief Navigation Officer at Coastal Command and asked him whether, if I could provide him with a fan of beams from northwest Spain, he could honestly say that Coastal Command could make better use of it than the Germans themselves. He held an enquiry at the Command and two days later called back affirmatively, adding that the Command would very much appreciate the service.1

So, instead of countering or even destroying the system, the British employed it themselves! Jones correctly surmised that the British might benefit more from the system than the Germans would. Jones continues, “The Code name ‘Consol’ was given to the system, and Coastal Command used it with much success. So much so, in fact, that its use was continued for civil purposes after the war.”2
      As a stratagem, leveraging the opponent’s capability is not universally applicable, but when it does fit, it’s potentially both unexpected and highly profitable (after all, you let your opponent invest the resources and shoulder the development risk). It also yields a resilient capability. Because your opponent is already using the same capability, he or she is unlikely to abandon or neglect it. The trick perhaps is to ensure your opponent that you don’t know about the capability; otherwise he might wonder why you haven’t acted against it. In any case, it is clearly a scheme for the red teamer’s toolkit, even if it’s not an everyday dodge.

  1. R. V. Jones, Most Secret War, p. 259 []
  2. This is also from Jones, p. 259. If you’re interested in following the story of Consol further, some interesting details are available here. []

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  • Along the lines of what you have presented and its timely need, may I suggest going online and searching for “Jihadi Concept of Fourth Generation Warfare” by Col. Dan Dickerson.


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