Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Prophecy of Warfare: Theme Eight

This is a really good article on planning for future wars by a talented retired Army major general.

Let me review, at his challenge, the ten themes Scales set forth about future war in 1999. Mind you, it speaks well of him to predict the future and then stand by them when the future approaches. As he notes, predictions about future war shouldn't be about getting the future right, it is about not getting it too wrong to win.

I'll do them one at a time in separate posts. This is the eighth post. Let me preface this effort with my warning from my 2002 Military Review article (starting on p. 28) about the projected FCS that was the primary weapons system envisioned by those planning efforts:

Barring successfully fielding exotic technologies to make the FCS work, the Army must consider how it will defeat future heavy systems if fighting actual enemies and not merely suppressing disorder becomes its mission once again. The tentative assumptions of 2001 will change by 2025. When they do,the Army will rue its failure today to accept that the wonder tank will not be built.

The eighth theme from 1999 is:

8.Maneuver with All Arms at the Lowest Practical Level While the “base element of maneuver” might have been a division in World War II and a brigade in Operation Desert Storm, perhaps by 2025 it might be a company of all arms, possessing the power to employ every dimension of ground combat from maneuver to fires, reconnaissance, logistics, and the control of all external amplifiers.

I did address this issue in that 2002 article:

As an FCS unit deploys, it should be able to fight with what it has and not rely on later arriving elements.33 If 30 percent of the unit is deployed, it should be 30 percent as effective as the entire unit.

My concern was that deploying rapidly was a waste--and dangerous--if the early-deploying unit needs to wait for later elements to arrive before it is combat ready. This isn't quite "all arms" maneuvering because it encompasses support units, too. But the theme does include logistics, and external "amplifiers." I assume that means things like engineers, maintenance, and air defense, for example.

Other than that, the only time I really addressed something like this was approving of having our heavy battalions in the new 2-battalion brigades equipped with two tank companies and 2 mechanized infantry companies each. And I noted how it was common to mix tanks and mechanized platoons to create company-sized "teams."

But you don't push all the supporting arms down to the team level. You certainly don't push tube and rocket artillery down to the battalion level (that's the level where mortars come in, going down to companies and platoons with smaller mortars).

"At the lowest possible level" is key. If you push below that level you are simply dispersing too much rather than allowing combined arms action. At some point you have to have a concentration of effort at a weak point to defeat the enemy.

I don't know what the lowest possible level is for all the enablers. Is it the brigade as we have with our brigade combat teams? I'd say it shouldn't be company teams, although for combined arms that is good.

Or should it be battalion task forces? I suppose an argument could be made for that, what with all the rage about Russian battalion tactical groups (but I think that Western awe about the BTG is misplaced).

But my skepticism about the Russian BTG is not about the battalion itself but about whether it is really just the usable part of a Russian brigade.

If a brigade is organized into 3 or 4 combined arms and self-contained battalion task forces (or BTGs, if you want to use Russian terminology), that's another issue altogether.

Theme seven is here.