Reinforcing Failure: Attack On Titan Part 2

AoT 2 intro

My last Attack On Titan article listed some military failings in the show. The biggest were because they didn’t have any professional soldiers, and this led to spectacularly poor decisions. But it’s unfair to level so much criticism without offering ideas for improvement. The technical level of human society approximates the mid-1800s: they’ve had their industrial revolution, but haven’t quite got to mechanising everything. Even so there are plenty of things that would make a difference.

What hosed me off most about the military in Attack On Titan was the indescribably poor organisation and complete lack of professionalism on display. This leads to suicidal tactics, lousy planning, and a general failure to be effective. There’s no point in tactics that don’t serve your strategy and the humans desperately need a strategy more sophisticated than “wait for the titans to go away”. So let’s start there.

Strategy and Operations:
Coming up with strategy is difficult, because we don’t know much about the titans. So it needs two parts – one in which they hold off the titans and learn more about them, and one in which their source is attacked once it’s been identified. Using the same phrasing as before, the strategic statement is “We will defeat the titans by learning where they come from, and then destroying it.”

All the military branches need some organisational levels between “squad” and “corps”. Say it with me – the primary advantage of superior numbers is greater freedom to pursue multiple avenues of attack. Since humans have superior numbers, it makes no sense to throw them away in small groups. Making use of them requires better organisation, so the basic operational group should be five squads of twelve soldiers assigned together more or less permanently (a “platoon”). Although every squad should have a scout or two in it, one squad will be specialised in that role. Another squad will specialise in the care and feeding of the heavy weapons I’ll be mentioning later. The other three will be general-purpose ‘tactical’ squads. Having them permanently assigned to the same platoon will give everyone a chance to train and get used to working together, and is a manageable number to keep under control once the fighting starts.
We also need another level above that of five platoons, which will look a lot like a larger version of the structure above: one scout platoon, one weapons platoon, and three ‘tactical’ platoons. Let’s call this a “company”. We can stop there, since larger groups are going to be unwieldy to manoeuvre in the field, but even those groupings should help organise matters.
(Why am I talking about field forces? Because that’s how we take the fight to the titans. Sitting behind the walls is not going to make the titans go away; at some point we’ll need to venture out. And when we do, we have to be able to beat the titans we encounter.)

Operationally, both the Survey Corps and Garrison Corps are going to be busy. The Garrison Corps needs to not only take care of any titans that wander up to the walls, but also find ways to defend outposts outside them. This is going to mean developing specialists in engineering and artillery (prime subject for consideration: the concept of “defence in depth”). The Survey Corps, meanwhile, will have to provide advance warning of titans and also start conducting longer-range patrols to find out where they’re coming from. In addition to this, they get the job of capturing titans as needed for research purposes.

I think I know someone who’ll be pleased about that.

I think I know someone who’ll be pleased about that.

I’m sorry, but this business of everyone swinging around and waving swords has to go. It is just stupid, and it results in one or two people going up against a titan at a time. The casualty rate is appalling, and it doesn’t even work very well. Start by remembering the basic phases of a battle – find the enemy, fix them in position, and then destroy them. Since we have these platoons from earlier, let’s get as many of their members as possible engaging each titan.

To find the titans, we need scouts who can pass back information without getting eaten. I’m all in favour of avoiding the titans where possible but sometimes it won’t be, so let’s proceed on the assumption that we’re going to bring one down.
To fix a titan, we need some way of keeping it in the same place long enough to do something nasty to it. Luring it into bad terrain might help but it can’t be relied upon. So we need some way of blinding and/or crippling it before we try for the kill. Fortunately, we already have some answers. We know that titans’ eyes, muscles, and tendons are just as vulnerable as those on a human (although they grow back a lot quicker). They also can’t easily break the cables used by the manoeuvre devices.
Which brings us to the third phase, destruction. The only way to kill a titan is by destroying the nape of its neck, but you don’t have to do that with a sword. We’ve seen that high-explosive shells from cannons will work, as does merciless pummelling from another titan, so enough physical damage will do the trick. That makes it easier.

So there’s the outline of our tactics against titans. Find them, manoeuvre them into position, and then engage them from multiple sources. First to disable them, then to kill. You’ll note this is exactly what humans have spent millennia doing against large animals, so we know that it works. But titans are considerably more resilient than mammoths, so we need something more potent than sharp sticks.

Calm down! You can keep your swords!

Calm down! You can keep your swords!

The three-dimensional manoeuvre device has flaws. It requires a lot of ability to use as well as conveniently placed terrain, and only lasts about 20 minutes before the gas cylinders need changing. But it does give users much more mobility, which is important. So we’ll keep it, but add an item for anyone using it: a helmet. Something like a football or aviator helmet would be fine, all it has to do is provide some cushioning. Concussion must be a daily risk.

The real question is how to disable the titans for long enough to do something more lethal. The harpoon cannons used by the Survey Corps are good, although inconveniently large for a single person to carry. How about a single-shot version? That way everyone can carry one or two, and a volley of those will still cause problems. Everyone’s got one and they don’t have to hold the titan completely still: they just have to slow it down and distract it while we do something nasty to it.
As for what that might be… well, if the PC game Quake has taught us anything it is that thou canst not kill that which doth not live. But thou canst blast it into chunky kibbles.

"I wanna introduce you to a close personal friend of mine.”

“I wanna introduce you to a close personal friend of mine.”

This is a Panzerfaust. When I was looking for something portable but powerful enough to bother a titan, this came immediately to mind. It’s a disposable antitank weapon, comprised of a high-explosive warhead and a gunpowder rocket, and it’s about as simple as these weapons get. It’s also light enough for someone to carry a couple without being slowed down. Manufacturing them in large quantities is entirely possible for the humans. A fragmentation warhead might not kill a titan, although then again it might. But it will blow off limbs, shred muscles and tendons, and generally wreck shit. A volley of these will make it much easier to administer any finishing blows required.

Of course these are weapons for infantry. We’re going to want something heavier occasionally. Now, I have a soft spot for artillery in all its forms. But some of the types which would be effective against titans just aren’t practical in this setting, and most of the rest wouldn’t be very effective. The cannons are ok, but not really mobile. What we need is something that packs a punch, is quick and easy to bring into action, and can genuinely keep up with the horses that are the only useful form of transport outside the walls.

AoT 2 heavy weapons
Which reduces us to three options: light cannon; Gatling guns; and rockets.

Light cannon (example) would be about 75mm in calibre, breech-loading, and firing either an explosive shell or some sort of chain-shot or expanding projectile. I’ve got my doubts about the capacity of the humans to manufacture both this and it’s ammunition in quantity, although I suppose if they can make the 3D manoeuvre device they can manage it. But you’d have to make your shots count, because you’d only get a couple every minute.

AoT 2 light cannon
Rate of fire is not a problem with Gatling guns, of course. Even a hand-cranked version (example) can put out several 10mm bullets a second, so hits from dozens of them will add up pretty quickly. This is also a big drawback: it gobbles ammunition in prodigious quantities, which is going to cause problems for supply outside the walls. It also requires even more in the way of precision manufacturing capability. Most importantly, it might struggle to disable titans. Their regeneration is impressive, and they don’t have many vulnerable spots for a lucky bullet to hit.

AoT 2 gatling
A multiple rocket launcher (example) is also a possibility. Accuracy is not their strong point, although probably no worse than a smoothbore cannon. But they do have a hefty payload capacity and they’re simple, cheap, effective, and reliable. Fire them singly if you’re a good shot, or salvo them if several titans bunch up. They do take time to reload, however, and their ammunition is bulky.

All of these are worth a shot (pun definitely intended). Field tests would be required to see which are best-suited to equip mobile formations, and that might change depending on the situation. If I had to choose just one, however, it would be the rockets. As with the Panzerfausts, a salvo isn’t guaranteed to kill the titans (although I think it stands a decent chance). But it will disable them while they try to regenerate from the huge damage it does, and that makes it much easier for someone with a sword to finish them off.

Or we could go for something more subtle.

Or we could go for something more subtle.

Given all this about rockets and guns and high explosives, you might be wondering why I’m still talking about swords. It’s true that I think using them as your primary means of bringing down titans is indescribably stupid, and although the swing-up-and-slice-the-neck thing might be necessary if you run out of other weapons it is still very much second-best. But a titan with a leg shredded by a rocket blast is going to have its neck conveniently close to ground level, and at that point finishing them off with a sword lets us concentrate on other things.

See, this is why good reconnaissance is so important.

See, this is why good reconnaissance is so important.

Scouting and Reconnaissance:
Erwin Smith is regarded as a genius by the Survey Corps, and he is somewhat less clue-deprived than everyone else. But keep in mind this guy’s scouting scheme involved small groups scattered across the landscape, riding at full speed, and shooting off smoke signals whenever they saw something. And this was an improvement on previous methods. We can do better than that.

In the comments on the first article, someone mentioned the idea of using airships for scouting missions. This is a really good idea because the titans can’t get at them and might not even notice, and they’re ideal for long duration reconnaissance trips. But there’s not much evidence either way on whether they could be built or not. Even if they can’t, however, the third dimension does offer another option. Your basic observation balloon, tethered by a suitable cable, could be very useful.

As for scouting on the ground, I’m going to mention a word here that might not be familiar to the characters in Attack On Titan: ‘subtlety’. When I was doing recon the ideal was always to get information without anyone knowing we were there. Since titans finding out where humans are is usually followed by them attacking, this seems like a worthwhile ideal. Humans have some inherent advantages over titans: we’re smaller (so we can see them from further than they can see us), we operate fairly well at night (while they tend to go dormant out of the sun), and we have brains. Yes, this will mean getting off the horses once in a while, climbing up hills or trees, and looking around. But that’s still better than riding into a bunch of titans unprepared.
Once we’ve located them, how do we get that information back? I’d suggest a heliograph. This isn’t much more than a mirror, but it’s still one of the quickest non-electronic ways of sending a message. With that, I think we have all the basic tools we need to start making a real difference against the titans.

AoT 2 out for a ride

Attacking Titans:
With all these new ideas and toys, how does it look in action? Let’s take an example; a single platoon from the Survey Corps in the field.

The scout squad leads the way, with its members dispersed in pairs a few hundred meters ahead of the rest of the platoon and covering both the axis of advance and its immediate flanks (the scouts from the other squads are covering the flanks and rear). One pair of scouts discovers a titan and flashes that information back to the platoon commander, who decides to attack.
The scouts redeploy: now they’re watching the flanks and rear to prevent the platoon being given exploratory surgery by any wandering titanic doctors. Meanwhile the platoon commander has located the intended kill-zone and the weapons squad is setting up its heavy weapons (three of them, with a 4-person crew each) to cover it. Tactical squads A & B are also getting set up there – the third (C) is getting ready to lure the titan in. When everyone is set, the platoon commander signals to begin the engagement.

C squad goes out and attracts the attention of the titan, who begins lumbering towards them. They stay well out of its way, however, and keep moving back to the kill-zone. When they get there, the weapons squad opens up with its initial salvo. Most of the shots miss, but the few that hit wound and enrage the titan. It starts coming for the heavy weapons… right in front of squads A & B. A volley of rockets lances out, and several strike the titan. None are enough to kill it, but it has two limbs blown off and is stunned and disabled. Squad B darts out and is able to slice open the titan’s neck – success!

Time for a break!

Time for a break!

Unfortunately, then things start going wrong. Attracted by the noise, another pair of titans arrive on the scene. They haven’t been told where the kill-zone is, and inconsiderately approach from one flank. The weapons squad re-orients its weapons and begins sustained fire on the new threat. Their objective is not to kill the titans, just prevent them from interfering. Under cover of this supporting fire, squad C is able to get close to the titans. They open with an initial volley of harpoons, pinning one of the titans in place. Two volleys of rockets reduce the other to a quivering heap of protoplasm on the ground, which makes both of them easy targets for swords.

At this point the scouts flash an urgent message: four more titans are converging on the battlefield, led by a 15-metre class! It’s time to get out of here, especially since the platoon has fired almost a third of its basic load of ammunition. The weapons squad starts packing up, and squad C takes up the lead position. Squads A & B, meanwhile, form a rearguard. They move back in bounds to ensure that no sneaky 3-metre titans cause mischief. That is exactly what squad A encounters, but they don’t stop to play: a volley of rockets drops it in its tracks, and the squad moves on. It’s either dead or regenerating for the next 15 minutes; either way it’s out of the battle. And so are the humans.

It’s important to note that this was not an engagement that went smoothly. But because of their organisation and weapons they were able to get away with it and still kill three, maybe four titans; very possibly without losing a single soldier. This is far and away a better performance than they achieved in the anime, which just goes to show what a bit of planning and organisation can do. And, of course, a whole lot of rockets.

AoT 2 looking up
And there you have it. My $0.02 worth on what the military could be doing differently in Attack On Titan. I’m not going to pretend that this would solve things overnight – humanity is in a very bad position, mainly because they haven’t been very smart about what they’re doing up till now. But I really do think that a more professional approach would be enough to turn things around.

Question of the post: What do you think of my ideas? What do you think the humans should be doing differently?


About Dr. J.H. Watson

I’m a New Zealander, in my 30s, and until recently I lived in rural Japan. I have interests in history, pop culture, video games, and the clever use of language.
This entry was posted in Anime, Military and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Reinforcing Failure: Attack On Titan Part 2

  1. rikuo06 says:

    Very descriptive scenario. Have you considered writing fanfiction? Or original fiction for that matter. Too bad that Attack on Titan doesn’t have very many opportunities to improve the tactics against normal titans before things take a turn towards internal affairs and more of the titans that show up are Plot-Armored Titans.

    I recently came across a fascinating series called “Gate – Thus the JSDF Fought There” that I’d highly recommend. The premise is a gate to a fantasy world appearing in the middle of Ginza in Tokyo, through which a fantasy army attempts to stage an invasion. Unsurprisingly, they are ridiculously overmatched and crushed by modern military forces. Japan proceeds to dispatch the JSDF through the gate to explore the fantasy world and attempt to establish diplomatic relations. The series began as a serialized web novel, was rewritten and published in light novel format, is currently having a manga adaptation, and will soon have an anime adaptation as well. (Apparently, the political content was turned down a notch in the adaptations, perhaps for the better.) Unfortunately, my Japanese is yet inadequate, so I can only tackle this series through the fan-scanlation of the manga. I certainly hope the future anime adaptation will raise more attention for this series and bring along licensed English versions. What made me bring this up here? Probably a scene involving a dragon and a Panzerfaust…


    • I have thought about writing fiction, both fan and otherwise. In fact I’ve even done it, although I haven’t tried to get anything published. Maybe I’ll post some of the shorter and more finished items here at some point.

      That series does sound very interesting, and once it shows up in an English version I’d be interested in giving it a look. Stories that pit a modern military against a fantasy or historical counterpart are easy to get wrong – it’s too easy to err on one side or the other in terms of who is getting stomped all over. But if that balance can be struck in a plausible fashion, then it can be a great read.


  2. Thank you for mentioning the helmets (as well as the rockets). It’s just basic safety; all I could think about watching every zip around on the manouvre gear was the risk of whacking your head on something, not even to speak of whiplash. I think the gear is pretty cool as gear goes, butwWhere is the neck support??


  3. Alex Hurst says:

    Those are some great ideas! It’s really cool to see this all critiqued from a the angle of someone familiar with military tactics. I’m taking notes for my own stories, haha. I second the fan fiction thing, or original fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m very pleased you like it! I’m not a career expert on such matters, but I suppose I do have a few clues. If there’s anything I can help with, please let me know. As for the fiction thing… stay tuned. With what people have been saying, I might post one of my short stories here for inspection.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alex Hurst says:

        Thank you! I have absolutely no experience with military matters, but there are desert wars in my WIPs, so I would be thrilled to know a good starting place besides Lawrence of Arabia, haha!


        • Straight off the top of my head, you could do a lot worse than checking out Spike Milligan’s war memoirs (listed at but you could find them at other places). Milligan doesn’t see much in the way of desperate personal combat, but his unit takes part in the fighting in North Africa and some of that could be useful for adding details. They’re pretty funny at times, but more than that they’re a surprisingly accurate depiction of what military life can be like. When I joined the army (50 years later) I was surprised by how much seemed familiar.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Alex Hurst says:

            Thank you so much for the suggestion!


            • You’re more than welcome, I hope it helps. Most of what I’ve read about desert warfare has been very dry (hah!), so it can be a bit of a slog. I’ve heard good things about “The Sands of Valour” as well.
              A lot depends on the setting, of course, and what aspects you’re interested in portraying. Are you able to shed any light on those?


  4. Bear says:

    Thanks for the article. Some very good points. It really got me thinking again about this subject. Would that the mangaka had had someone (like you) with some actual military experience or at least familiarity. In some ways the situation at the start of the story is analogous to the US pre-WWII. Isolationist hiding behind the walls (the ocean and the US Navy) and complacent (what’s happening outside of the walls is not our concern). The US formed a national policy of mobilizing the whole country strategically to commit to the war. Severely lacking in AoT. So I think they need to place the country on a war footing to support your strategic statement. Leaving that aside, I’ll focus on what we’re discussing on the military side.

    Some of this will be repetitive to what you wrote, so sorry. At the top, I’d start by asking what the operational goals are to support the strategic vision and to do that you need to define the enemy’s goals and it’s capabilities and deployment. So one set of positions should be intelligence (S2). To support the intelligence effort we need reconnaissance capabilities. This should include reconnaissance in force but also special operations units. SO units should be small enough that they would be unlikely to draw attention to themselves since active countermeasures against Titans seems to draw others in. . The enemy is also not supposed to know you’re out there (unless you want them too). The SO units need to be capable of long range reconnaissance patrols (LRRPS). If they can develop and air arm of maneuverable airships they should be employed in a similar capacity. The humans are severely lacking in situational awareness

    They need an R&D organization. One adhoc member of the Survey Corps doesn’t cut it. Weapons and tactical procedures development are a must. Without improving both the humans are toast. The maneuvering gear may look cool but it’s only useful by specialists in limited areas. And it’s getting a lot of troopers killed for no effect. Equivalent to charging into machine guns in WWI or maybe horse cavalry in WWII. Wrong approach for the situation.

    We also need logistical support (S4). The most they seem to have is troops to refill the gas canisters. I’m sure they’ve got supply and catering people, but they’re not organized for offensive operations as far as I can see.

    I think one issue with your organization might be a lack of information as to what is appropriate for dealing with Titans and the weapon capabilities that need to be used. Unit sizes and functionality need to be aligned with this specific opponent. One anecdote that I remember reading is that an American gun crews had a corporal. The corporal did things but no one knew why he was a supposed to be there in the TO. Turned out that he was originally assigned to hold the horses. So not only should we deal with things like “span of control” but we also need to think about weapons and tactics at multiple levels.

    Now to me, 12 man squads seem large. I’m more familiar with something in the range of nine with one squad leader and two fire teams for a tactical squad. Twelve might be how things are organized now or is that a New Zealand organizational structure? Seems a bit unwieldy especially given their low level of commo capability, though it might be needed to take down a Titan. First question I have is what are the objectives at a squad level? Should a tactical squad be capable of taking down a Titan by itself with minimal external support? What capabilities would that require? Smaller Titans would seem to be something that a single squad might handle, so we would have SOP(Standard Operating Procedures) that specified when and how you engage specific sizes or numbers of Titans at a squad/platoon/company level and what each sub unit’s task would be.

    So what does it take to kill a Titan? Damage to any part of the body besides the nape of the neck only partially disables them. They don’t seem to feel pain and will keep attacking regardless of damage. A clean nape cut seems to be necessary to kill them. Most appear to be torpid at night (which means night operations should be developed).

    Present tactics involve single individuals attempting to gain altitude either by using 3D gear on nearby tall structures or the Titans themselves to reach the nape of the neck. Both methods involve exposing themselves to being attacked by the Titans while they are operating. Neither appears to work that well unless the attacker is extremely skilled, such as Levi. Therefore the use of 3D gear should be kept to a minimum and only used where appropriate. You don’t issue skis or life vests to troopers fighting in the desert.

    Troopers should be equipped for specific functions. One group should focus on disabling Titans so that the kill team can go in and deliver the fatal blow. There probably even needs to be another team whose mission is to prevent the Titan from attacking the kill team while they are engaged. A third possible team (and certainly a methodology and equipment) would be to rescue troopers that have been grabbed by a Titan. At least offer them a self-destruct mechanism. While a Titan is being disposed of you also need to have scouts out to warn of the arrival of other Titans and to provide a blocking action to allow the main unit to escape if necessary.

    I think your idea of the Panzerfaust , or maybe even a LAW(Light Antititan Weapon ☺) is good and given the human capacities with gas powered systems, I also think that the gas system could be adapted to use in a similar weapon. It’s capable of multiple lifts of at least 2 hundred pounds of human and equipment. Panzerfausts rely on application of force to a very small point to penetrate armor. Here we need to ensure that the specific target area (nape) is severed completely. My suggestion would be a scimitar type blade (not sure why they don’t use a slashing blade anyway now) or more appropriately a cresent shaped blade that is rocket propelled using their gas system with an explosive charge to propel the blade forward when it strikes something. Another option would be multiple blades. These would be more of a kill team equipage. You’d still need some that were designed more for the disabling and kill team protection phases.

    I’ll stop here since it’s getting TL:DR.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m impressed by the level of thought and detail you’ve put into this. I agree with pretty much all of it, and I think you make an especially strong point about the lack of situational awareness.

      As far as squad sizes go, in the average NZ infantry unit the squad size is nominally ten people. It’s usually more like eight in practice, for a variety of boring reasons. The reason I decided to standardise on twelve for this was the weapons squads: I thought they needed a minimum of three weapons in order to be worthwhile, and four crew per weapon seemed like a reasonable number. Twelve people per tactical squad also lets the squad leader have three teams, and four people with panzerfausts and harpoons might just be able to handle a small titan by themselves.

      Of course you’re correct that a shaped charge or explosively formed fragment warhead won’t do much against a titan. I’m not sure the humans can make them anyway, but in this case it doesn’t matter much: they’d be better off simply stuffing a steel container full of high explosives and relying on blast and/or fragmentation to do the damage. I’m not really expecting these weapons to take out a titan by themselves. If they do then so much the better, but what they’re really intended as is an almost certain method of disabling a titan for long enough to let someone finish it off with a cutting implement.

      I’m always a little bit worried about over-specialisation of units, especially in settings which don’t have strong communications and intelligence resources. It would be the “best” way to do it, yes, but the chances of accidents happening and people blundering into something outside what they’re equipped or trained for is a concern. A partial cure for that is training, of course, but I suspect that the humans’ training establishment is on a par with the rest of their military and support services: weirdly good at one or two things which are of little practical value, and absolutely pants at everything else. Still, at least they do a decent job of getting rid of everyone who has no business wearing the uniform.

      Anyway, thanks a lot for engaging so thoroughly with all this. I look forward to seeing your comments in the future!


    • Mike says:

      Regarding rocket/RPG style weaponry for the time period. As you’ve stated they could use something akin to their gas system for launch, explosives should (as far as we have determined) also be a relatively easy thing to manufacture. So, let’s consider the possibilities (remembering that this was intended to cause vast amounts of damage in a short time-span to allow those with a blade to deal a killing blow).

      The Hwacha multiple fire-arrow system was in use by the Koreans mid 15th century, firing anything up to 200 arrows in a short time-period. The same is true of the Chinese in a similar time period with the Huo Jian Launchers, these were man-portable rather than a wheeled contraption. Granted this probably wouldn’t do much to a titan, but it’s a good start.

      Mysorean rockets of the 18th century gave way to Congreve rockets in the 19th. Congreve was on the right path with a nice solid casing and case-shot, shell, or explosive payloads. Still a bit messy needing a stick as a guide-rail for launch. However, this was the beginning of the 19th century and with our current thoughts on timeline they could be around mid 19th given other tech they posses. Later still with some elements (3D gear etc.)

      This leads us to the Hale rocket. Mid 19th century, spin-stabilised, steel cased and all manner of fun possible depending how you build a warhead. All of this done with gunpowder or solid-fuel and nicely enough can be launched from a tube. Imagine a multiple-launcher with something like this and you have a hell of a party for the titans. Some of these could even be used at up to 3.5km, rocket-artillery!

      I can’t really comment much on your troop layout except to agree with Dr. Watson here, specialisation means that if casualties are taken then fewer people can afford to be lost before your unit is no longer functional. I’d much rather have a decent team of generalists I think (especially given what we know about their other abilities, training might not be high on their list of priorities 🙂 ). As for the number 12, it’s gloriously divisible, its factors being 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6, always nice to have the freedom to divide groups cleanly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Something like the Hale rocket is exactly what I had in mind. Earlier rocket artillery proves the concept is possible, but don’t have enough punch or accuracy to really bother titans much. But once we get something with the accuracy of a smoothbore cannon and a good payload capacity then even gunpowder rockets and warheads become worthwhile. Since we know the humans can make high explosives, that makes the rockets even more effective.
        Engagement ranges over a kilometer or so are surprisingly rare, especially in temperate climates like this one, so as long as the rockets can get that far then I think they’re fine. Being able to fire accurately further would only be really useful if there was some sort of forward observer system for indirect fire… but if THAT can be arranged, then suddenly the situation changes drastically. And not in the titans favour.


  5. daikama says:

    A bit late to the party, but figured I might as well throw in my two cents. I think both the article and comments make good points. Some of this might be repetitive since what follows is solely based upon my thoughts after reading the main post. Also kind of tl:dr. Sorry about that.

    Strategy and Operations (and Organization):
    Organization ties into the heart of the above “warriors” vs. “soldiers” argument. Specifically, as is, the training is simply “learn 3D gear and go kill titans”. It lacks specialization present in modern militaries. One thing I mentioned before is specialization within units who use the 3D gear. Dodgy guys/girls have a specific role to distract (and ideally temporarily disable) a target in order to create a better opportunity for skilled “finishers” to land a killing blow. On top of that, there should be specialists and/or dual trained troops for creating traps such as land mines and other “booby traps”. Things which can help control the battlefield. Actually, dual training (primary and secondary roles) is a good idea given casualty rates. That way someone can take over a vacant position in an emergency. There also needs to be designated I&R members for gathering intelligence and are equipped for that specific role.

    Re. Training: If memory serves me (been a long time since I read/watched the series), some vets did come back and help to teach new recruits, but I don’t recall that being SOP. I’d adopt a standard rotation where possible. Passing on experience to new recruits is critical – especially when new successful tactics are discovered. If some new maneuver or tactic is discovered on the field, make sure it gets back to base so all can learn it rather than maybe later if those who discover it manage to survive long enough to tell others. Another thing about training is that there seems to be very little training in group tactics. Again, the “warrior” style rears its ugly head. There needs to be an emphasis on group/unit training with each person relentlessly practicing his/her preassigned role so that they act almost instinctually when combat starts. Another thing is regular use of hand signals for silent communication when ambushing titans.

    I agree with the basic premise of disable then kill. That’s consistent with my above suggestions of having some 3D Gear users as “distractors/disablers” and others as “finishers”. Scouting/ I&R is critical as well as is communication between and within units. A large part of that goes back to training. Personally, I think dictating terrain (where the battles take place) is important. Again, control the battlefield to the extent you can. I’d use ambush and booby trap like tactics. Land mines for sure and maybe even pits & trip wires. Of course that’s not always feasible so there needs to be training and tactics for disabler/finisher tactics per above. Terrain also plays a role depending upon equipment. 3D Gear is best suited for forested areas – really almost mandatory. On the other hand, cannons don’t work well in heavily wooded areas and have limited mobility on rough terrain.

    This is really the toughest topic since I think it’s highly debatable what’s “reasonable” when it comes to what new weapons the humans might have. Frankly, if they can have RPGs (i.e. “Panzerfaust”), I cannot imagine how rifled cannons are “too advanced”. I’d also argue that if you can make a Panzerfaust or Gatling gun (let alone 3D Gear), primitive breach blocks are on the table as well – at least for relatively small bore cannon (say at least 75-90mm).

    Panzerfausts are definitely a weapon of choice here in my opinion. I do think that can kill a titan with a properly placed shot. Those things are designed to penetrate 2+ inches of steel using 14oz of HE. There would need to be some reworking of the charge shape, but it should have a good chance of blowing off a large part of a titan’s neck, if not entirely, with a well-placed shot. Problem is that they are not accurate over long distances. Effective range is listed at 60m, but IMO for titan kill shots, it would be less. Maybe 30-40m. Speaking of things that blow up, I didn’t see hand grenades listed. During the US Civil War, the Union Army used the Ketchum Grenade so I think primitive hand grenades are a valid option. They certainly would be effective disablers – perhaps used in conjunction with 3D Gear to help troops quickly get beyond shrapnel range. Risky to use so have to test & train thoroughly.

    Cannons (especially rifled & breach loaded) are a staple on open ground, and definitely for Wall defense. Most of the discussion has been on beyond the Wall operations, but Wall defense shouldn’t be ignored. For long range excursions, limited mobility may be an issue – especially since the titans are quite mobile themselves. While not as accurate, I think mortars are a good alternative to cannons for rough terrain. According to Wiki: ”An early use of these more mobile mortars … was by British forces in the suppression of the 1719 Jacobite rising at the Battle of Glen Shiel. High angle trajectory mortars held a great advantage over standard field guns in the rough terrain of the West Highlands in Scotland.” Probably asking for too much, but if there was some sort of airburst shrapnel mortar round, mortars could be very deadly and fairly portable (with horses) weapons.

    I have mixed feelings about Gatling guns. I think breach loaded, “small” bore rifled cannons (e.g. 75mm) are a better way to go between the two. Granted you don’t have nearly the rate of fire, but when you do hit, it should count for a lot more. Given titan’s regenerative abilities, I think you’d end up using a lot of ammo to disable one with a Gatling gun. Rockets are a possibility, but if I recall correctly, accuracy is pretty abysmal for early rockets. Definitely something worth testing if nothing else. I’d also add land mines to the list. Certainly feasible in this situation since land mines have been around as early as 1277AD in China and 16th Century in Europe. I think mines have a lot of potential as disablers and are sufficiently portable outside the walls. One thought I have is a directional anti-titan mine you could put in a tree at “neck level. At worst, it should disable/blind them quite nicely. Lastly, I’d keep the swords as well. Always good to have a backup weapon, especially a reusable one.

    Scouting & Recon:
    Meh, wrote a lot so better end with this. Definitely think recon is a must. A heliograph is a pretty good idea though it’s limited depending upon conditions. It also might give away one’s position (assuming the titans can put 2+2 together). I’d also go old school with carrier pigeons sent from exploratory troops back to HQ inside the walls. That way HQ can be updated fairly frequently and new discoveries are not lost even if the exploration units are wiped out.


    • Thanks for your comment! I’m impressed by the amount of thought and detail you’ve put into it all. The TLDR version is that I more or less agree with everything you’ve said. Now on to the details…

      Personally, I think that Panzerfausts are entirely possible. They are literally a high-explosive charge propelled by a gunpowder rocket, fired from a simple tube by means of a percussion cap. We’ve seen all of those technologies used in the show, so I feel comfortable saying they can make them if the idea occurs. The most difficult part to make is the shaped charge warhead, but in this case that doesn’t matter: a shaped charge is hardly optimal for this purpose, and I think a simple lump of explosives would do the job just as well.
      Hand grenades are a good idea, although you have to get fairly close. Still, carrying a couple just on spec wouldn’t be too much of a problem. I did consider mortars, and against humans they’d be right at the top of my list of support weapons. In this context I’m less certain – their main advantage (indirect fire at a high angle) is less useful here. But they are more portable than cannon, so they’re probably worth trying. The only sort of airburst fuse you could come up with is probably a crude time fuse. Getting an airburst with that will be tricky, but not impossible for a good gunner. But even a ground burst would be handy – mortars send most of their fragments horizontally, so there would be a usefully large amount of titan in the fragmentation pattern.
      I think the Hale rocket Mike mentioned would have accuracy in the same ballpark as a cannon, and it would be pretty much ideal for the job. I agree that if all you’re doing is putting on an impromptu fireworks display something a bit more accurate would be needed, of course.

      The subject of wall defenses is a whole other kettle of piscinoids, and getting to grips with the topic would require a whole other article. Suffice to say that there are a great many ways they could be improved.


  6. q____q says:

    Haha, this ruined AoT a bit for me ^___^ I just found out there are some special OVAs for season 1 and while I was watching the first episodes I was like: „No! Don’t ride out there like that! You’re so unprepared, you’re asking for trouble!“


    • Sorry about that 🙂 But yes, once you get used to thinking about these things it gets a lot harder to turn a blind eye to cases where they get ignored. On the bright side, it lets you enjoy shows where they ARE addressed that much more.


  7. I’m very late to the party here, but just to throw in my two cents, I actually went the opposite way historically when I asked “why are they so dumb”. Because while small unit tactics, professional soldiers, and situationally aware junior officers would make a fight with any normal titans a walk in the park, at least in the long term, these are all modern inventions coming out of countless wars.

    These people have tech around 1860, which means that they would have gone behind the wall around 1750. Many of the silhouettes, in the anime at least, of this happening are downright medieval looking. This means that, given that they seem to have stagnated intellectually, that their intellectual culture of warfare when would still be focused on big, blocky unit formations focused primarily on winning set piece battles. Given this, anything like what you are suggesting, while very effective, would seem to require intellectual resources far beyond their level of advancement.

    It would actually break the reality for me to see such advanced things in a culture like theirs. This differs from the 3d gear, which is clearly beyond their technical expertise. What I’m talking about is their knowledge and social inventions. For instance, seeing Gallic warbands all wearing the same military uniform is jarring. This is because even though it was certainly within their technological grasp to do so, it was far beyond any intellectual culture that could reasonably exist in Gallic culture to create this kind of mass produced warfare.

    This also goes to the idea of the panzerfaust. I mean, one could build this type of weapon during the civil war. But no one did, and the reason isn’t that everyone at the time was an idiot (insert jokes about generals named Hooker here). A significant portion of what makes an invention possible goes beyond simply combing together available technologies. It also requires the requisite ideas to be invented before it comes along. I think it’s important to note that the panzerfaust is a copy of a different weapon, the American Bazooka.

    The Germans didn’t even have to invent most of the weapon, and they certainly didn’t have to invent the idea of it, the way that the AoT city folk would have to. The AoT people would have to understand that a spinning object is stable in flight, which they clearly don’t, given their lack of rifling technology. They wouldn’t have to invent the rocket, true, but they would have to dig up the idea of rockets in a library. And then they would have to invent casings for the rocket. And warheads. And then test this with their non-existent RnD department, after they invented the RnD department.

    With all that said, I think most of your ideas are spot on, barring the exceptions stated above.

    I was thinking that given their available resources, some combination of pike phalanxes, sword staffs (apparently they can mass produce sword blades), and muskets would make up infantry formations that would be able to fix the titans while canons firing some sort of mast destroying munition (bar or chain shot) or a few swingy people hit the back of the neck.

    My thinking is that pike squares have been proven to work in our world (minus the swingy people, but I don’t see how they would detract from a pike square given that they are generally above it. I guess they could get tangled in the pikes, but given how ludicrously dangerous it already is I doubt that would be a concern) and has almost certainly already been demonstrated in their world to work. This means that they know that it can work as well as us. It has the added bonuses of using many of the strengths of humans (numbers of troops engaged simultaneously, intelligence, ranged weapons) while remaining cost effective in both resources (pikes are cheap and easy to make, they already have a proven capacity to mass produce swords, muskets and canons) and time (Pikes, pole arms, muskets, and canons don’t take three years to train someone on. They take at most several months, possibly a year for officers).

    I could see some problems with flexilibility of such formations, given their tendency to be weak from the flank and rear, but I think that there are ways to avoid this. Dragoons could be deployed to the flanks and rear, and could head off any threat to the square, delaying or destroying it and giving time for artillery to target it or another pike square to intercept it. Keeping multiple squares deep would also be critical.

    There are some other drawbacks, like trying to use this in an urban setting would probably not go particularly well, given the formation’s inability to traverse buildings. However, at a choke point, like, say a gate? They would be nearly indestructible in this position save for the plot-powered titans (colossal titan, armored titan). However, these titans are already invulnerably to canon fire, so humanity is basically screwed if these guys show up anyway, so worrying about them seems rather pointless.

    An additional if unrelated thought on wall defense: a large weight attached to the end of a strong wire on a crane would be a very effective weapon on such a high wall. Simply line the crane up with the titan below (an actual use for those miles of track they installed on the top of the wall), swing a large weight down and splatter the back of the neck all over the ground. Because the wall is so ridiculously high, a pendulum would impart an insane amount of energy, and it wouldn’t have a limit on the number of times it could be used, outside of metal fatigue, because the projectile is retrievable. It would certainly take a long time, and would probably only kill a titan every few hours on it’s own, but even an incapacitation could result in death if there were people on the wall ready to jump down, cut the neck, and zip back up. Given the length of time that this siege is taking place in, even something like five or six titan’s a day would start to make a significant difference.

    Although I think that all this thinking is wasted on a group of people that seem to think that filling a hole in a wall is beyond their technology level. They don’t understand dirt technology.

    There is a reason the titans are winning, and it’s pretty obvious why.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I regret that I can only Like this comment once.

      I think you make a really good point about the cultural and historical context all this is taking place in. The reasons WHY something as screwed up as this exists are very important when trying to work out how to fix it, especially with what you say about their not having the institutional knowledge to make use of or even come up with many of the innovations I was suggesting. What you suggest in terms of formations and equipment is certainly much more likely to be within their intellectual and organisational capacity. The idea of a pendulum for wall defence is one of those ideas which are stunning in their simplicity. So generally speaking, I think your ideas are much more likely to be practical.

      I suppose I should explain what I was thinking with my suggestions. Firstly, the titans appear to be fairly fast and very capable melee combatants. Given that and their toughness, I wanted to avoid short-range combat as much as possible. I suspect even a small one could do a great deal of damage to a phalanx of pikemen. Mutually supporting formations might be able to handle this threat, but then you run headlong into the humans lack of organisational depth. I’m honestly not sure they could handle the command and control requirements for open-field battles like this. As part of a defensive scheme for the walls I think the pikes and muskets could be a very useful addition, but I’m less sure about their role in an expeditionary force. Still, it’s an interesting idea, and definitely one worth trying out.

      As you say, however, it all amounts to the same thing in the end. The humans in the anime are incapable of conceptualising the movement of rocks and dirt even AFTER its been done, so their biggest problems aren’t even titan-related.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Reinforcing Failure: Military Mistakes in Attack On Titan | Speculative OP

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