Tooth-to-tail ratio

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The tooth-to-tail ratio (T3R), in military jargon, is the amount of military personnel it takes to supply and support ("tail") each combat soldier ("tooth"). While both "tooth" and "tail" soldiers may find themselves in combat or other life-threatening situations, "tooth" soldiers are those whose primary function is to engage in combat. The ratio is not a specific measure but rather a general indication of an army's actual military might in relation to the resources it devotes to supply, upkeep, and logistics.


An army's tooth-to-tail ratio is often inversely related to its technological capabilities and subsequently its overall power. While an army with a high tooth-to-tail ratio will have more personnel devoted to combat, these soldiers will lack the support provided by the tail. Such support includes the supply and communication infrastructure on which modern armies depend. An army with a higher tooth-to-tail ratio may have more combat troops, but each will be less effective. The tooth-to-tail ratio of the US military has varied widely in its different conflicts.[1]

The introduction of computer technology has made automation of the tail a possibility. One of the stated goals of DARPA is increasing the tooth-to-tail ratio (reducing the amount of logistics and support personnel necessary in proportion to combat personnel) without reducing combat effectiveness.[2]


  1. ^ McGrath, John J. (2007), The Other End of the Spear: The Tooth-to-Tail Ratio (T3R) in Modern Military Operations (PDF), The Long War Series, Occasional Paper 23 (OP 23), Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: Combat Studies Institute Press, ISBN 9780160789441, OCLC 154309350
  2. ^ "Strategic Vision". Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Archived from the original on April 24, 2010. Retrieved 19 September 2012. DARPA’s original mission, inspired by the Soviet Union beating the United States into space with Sputnik, was to prevent technological surprise. This mission has evolved over time. Today, DARPA’s mission is to prevent technological surprise for us and to create technological surprise for our adversaries.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)