Friday, March 29, 2019

About Those Things Called Tanks

American light infantry will get slaughtered in conventional combat against enemy forces backed by armor. What to do?

This author recognizes that American light infantry are at a severe disadvantage against enemy armor:

By design, light infantry forces sacrifice certain capabilities in order to maximize flexibility and mobility. But when the capabilities sacrificed leave American light infantry forces particularly vulnerable to a potential adversary, change is required. Army light infantry brigades currently have a critical anti-armor gap. However, by combining solutions across the DOTMLPF spectrum—doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities—the Army can maximize the anti-armor lethality, standoff, and capability within the light infantry brigade.

Appreciating the problem is welcome. By all means increase training and organic equipment within light infantry for anti-armor capabilities. But it isn't enough.

On the other hand, this seems too much:

If the Army is serious about focusing on defeating mechanized peer threats, then it must give equally serious consideration to mechanizing and mounting the entire active-duty component. Infantry brigade combat teams (IBCTs) would undergo a total motorized makeover, while armored and Stryker BCTs would remain unchanged. While this would be a tremendous organizational undertaking, it would only match our Russian counterparts, who have mechanized their entire Army, fielding no true dismounted elements. IBCTs, while able to rapidly deploy to a combat theater, have no inherent offensive capability against mechanized forces, and a highly insufficient capability to successfully defend against an enemy mechanized assault.

We can still use light infantry for a lot of missions that fall short of full-scale all-out conventional warfare in Europe or Asia. I'd like to keep light infantry even if I think they could be a smaller proportion of the force. I'd be happy if our non-heavy forces were restricted to the airborne and Stryker brigades while the rest are heavy brigades. Right now only a third of our brigades are to be armored. The rest are Stryker light mechanized units or leg infantry. That was fine for a COIN-centric force.

Even during the Cold War, with a much larger Army, we had about a 50-50 balance between heavy forces and infantry to keep our options open. I'd rather have the Stryker brigades come at the expense of the leg infantry rather than the armored forces. And a case can be made that we need a a larger proportion of heavy forces in today's precision firepower environment that makes unarmored forces vulnerable to destruction.

But if the light infantry unit--whether mountain, airborne, or whatever--we do maintain (add in Stryker units, too) faces enemy armor, it is no longer a place leg infantry should be with just organic anti-tank weapons. This is a whole new ball game. Screw the "flexibility and mobility." At that point surviving is the issue.

I think that the basic solution to the problem of leg infantry facing enemy tanks is to attach a tank battalion (or combined arms task force) to any light infantry brigade being sent into a theater where it will fight tanks. I wrote about this recently in Army magazine.