Thursday, June 20, 2019

A High-Tech World War I Western Front

The ability to reduce the work load at the pointy end of the stick in calling in fires and effects is an important capability to gain. It will speed up battle tempo. Until it doesn't.

This is what I'm talking about:

The days are coming when a squad leader on a battlefield, far from headquarters and large supporting units, will pull out something that looks like a smartphone, open an app and push a button and something in front of his squad will explode.

That’s one piece of a large vision that is emerging from work being done by the Pentagon’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force, said one of its originators, retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales.

A long time ago I noted the effect of the beginnings of that precision ability on speeding up battle tempo:

Coupled with recon assets that now roam the battlefield, precision strike capability will continue this speeding up effect. Our ground forces can look to the day in conventional combat where we kick off attacks and count on our forces to spot enemies during the advance and then destroy them with precision weapons when identified. The speed of reaction may very well allow us to fight in damn near march order in non-urban areas without having to pause to deploy against resistance unless it is a major force well dug in and concealed.

And precision fire support means that line units won't need to fire as much because supporting units to the rear and in the air will take out the targets. And those supporting units won't need to resupply as often, too. So pauses to resupply will dwindle.

Given that night vision gear and land navigation abilities based on GPS allow us to operate 24/7, the limits of human endurance will be the next brake on the speed of combat tempo. We're working on that, too.

I know I blogged about 3rd Infantry Division's cavalry squadron in the 2003 invasion of Iraq reflecting this speed/precision link, but it must be on the mostly dead Yahoo!Geocities version of The Dignified Rant pre-December 2004.

And I recently noted my wish for the days described in that article at the top:

In my ideal world, fire support is a black box where a call to destroy or suppress a target automatically calls in the appropriate weapon capable of taking out the target in a timely manner without the soldier making the support request even knowing what asset provided the support.

It could be a plane or space system out of sight, an attack helicopter, a ship or submarine offshore, a distant ground force missile or artillery asset, or even an 81mm mortar back at the company level.

If cyber weapons can suppress the target or add to the fires mission success--perhaps by negating point defenses against fires missions or information operations highlighting a path of retreat open to the enemy before the rounds hit to get them to retreat, for example--it is automatically plugged in to the mission.

Indeed, if the target is close to civilians, perhaps the call for fire support triggers automatic telephone warnings to civilian numbers near the target if there is time before the rounds need to hit.

And if there is automatic deconfliction between aerial assets and artillery to avoid the former being hit by the latter by being in the same air space, that would be great, too.

Of course, that speeding up of battle tempo will only help us as long as we alone have the capability. Once both sides have it, stalemate and attrition will rule the battlefield. Dispersal does not mean the lack of front lines any more than the lack of soldiers standing shoulder-to-shoulder means there isn't  front line.

When anything that emits--including the act of moving under surveillance--can be attacked and killed, a war of movement becomes nearly impossible while the enemy capability to see and shoot across the battlefield seamlessly as  the Combat Lethality Task Force is pursuing remains intact.

It's just that firepower will define the front more and more as the troop dispersal trend continues.