Thursday, May 17, 2018

Prophecy of Warfare: Theme Six

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 sixth 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 sixth theme from 1999 is:

6. Adopt an Operational Maneuver Doctrine Based on Firepower Dominance and Area Control
The need to accelerate the velocity of maneuver at all levels of war becomes more important when an adaptive enemy begins to level the firepower playing field by acquiring his own precision weapons. Distributed maneuver forced by proliferated precision weapons will change the geometry of ground combat from a linear to an irregular, roughly circular area formation.

I've certainly been on board the dispersal trend of units given increases in precision firepower and surveillance. Although I don't think that a linear front will go away. Why abandon a linear--if far thinner--front and allow enemies to penetrate territory unopposed by anything but firepower?

Mind you, spreading out means there are gaps covered by firepower. But that is still a linear front. I'm not fully comprehending how this is different when units have long adopted a "diamond" formation of covering flanks while advancing. How is a "circular" formation different or more effective?

Anyway, in this 2002 article (starting on page 28) I noted the need to disperse in smaller units:

A variant carrying three or four infantry soldiers is necessary.22 The infantry version should have an autocannon and allow the troops to fight mounted. The squad is small for dismounted fighting, but the Bradley already put U.S. infantry on the road to smaller squads. Compensating for reduced numbers, Land Warrior project-derived systems will digitize even walking infantry. Individual soldiers will be lethal, in constant communication, and exploit realtime intelligence. Each soldier will have more survivability than current equipment allows.23 Infantry soldiers may even look forward to personal electronic shields that disarm incoming rounds by disabling their proximity fuses.24 Dismounts may fight with flying or crawling robots that will see and kill for the soldiers.25 Small numbers compensated by greater lethality at longer ranges will, however, make such hyperinfantry less appropriate for peace operations where restraint and face-to-face policing are necessary. Situational awareness and long-range personal firepower will be largely useless when soldiers patrol streets that allow civilians to approach within arm’s length. Low-tech knives can kill even hypersoldiers under such circumstances.

Of course, dispersal only applies in conventional warfare.

And in blogging, I wasn't upset about going to smaller brigades given the trend of dispersal (although that was reversed more recently when the Army reduced the number of brigades--which I suspect was done to preserve battalions in case an expansion of brigades is needed again).

But rather than requiring a circular formation, doesn't precision and persistent surveillance mean that an advance could take place in virtually a road march formation?

Of course, that relies on facing enemy forces without as much precision firepower and certainly without the persistent surveillance.

Perhaps the real battle takes place around units in an effort to decouple enemy precision firepower from the persistent surveillance that makes precision so dangerous; while sustaining our own network of surveillance and precision firepower. And if we can manage that, our dispersal isn't as necessary.

[UPDATE: I neglected a lesson from the Donbas fighting between the Russian invaders and the Ukrainians--precision and surveillance certainly require everybody to be under armor or cover to survive the combination. That--and frequent movement--may possibly be more important than dispersal.]

Theme five is here.