Thursday, September 27, 2018

Fighting Actual Enemies is the Mission Again

The Army is thinking about diverting programmed money for several programs in order to procure capabilities deemed more important for a conventional fight against peer armed forces:

The Army would invest the money saved by cutting some of its banner programs into a next-generation combat vehicle; future vertical lift, long-range artillery, and strike capabilities; a stronger communications network; and air and missile defense.

Although many of the programs to be reduced to pay for these priorities seem valuable for conventional combat.

But it is true that forces need to be protected from enemy precision fire; needs more long-range artillery fire of its own; needs a secure battlefield internet; and that the Army needs new tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. I'm skeptical about the future vertical lift in the face of enemy air defenses, if the mission is moving behind enemy lines for vertical envelopment.

I'm worried about the new combat vehicle given the FCS fiasco. But with the need for protection in a conventional fight recognized, I'm hoping the Army won't try to build a wonder tank that is light enough to be strategically mobile yet well protected and as lethal as we need, as I hoped long ago in my worry about the FCS over-reach (see the article starting on page 28):

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.

At the time, I was more concerned about the efforts to elevate peacekeeping (and the fantasy "peace enforcement" mission, the subject of an article of mine, "Peace Enforcement: the Mythical Mission," that is not online) as the Army's mission, but the lengthy counter-insurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan had a similar effect in downgrading conventional fighting capabilities.

And one result is that we still don't have a replacement for the aging Abrams that, while still outstanding, is reaching the end of its lifespan for upgrades. We can't afford to fail in designing a replacement again as fighting actual enemies is now the Army's mission again.

For the infantry carrier, I hope we use secure communications to reach back for the squad.

And of course, while a declining but still dangerous Russia in Europe is the near-term focus, we can't ignore the possibility of fighting the rising China in a ground campaign in the Indo-Pacific region.

Whatever the merits of details, the new focus on conventional ground combat is justified.