In wargaming and training exercises, conventional Western Army Divisions have been soundly defeated or so chewed up within a week of High Intensity combat, that they have reached the point of being unable to effectively continue fighting.
It is time to sharpen the axe.
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These Army Divisions have predominantly been US Army Armored and Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (A/IBCT). Anti-Area/Area Denial (A2AD) tactics or so chewed up within a week of High Intensity combat that they have reached the point of being unable to effectively continue fighting (Nance, 2017).
Exaggerated and overstating the danger?
Perhaps not this time around…
The usual bandwagon jumping, retiree revolving door employment and book selling can usually be detected by smell if you know which direction downwind is. However this time around the situation is considerably different:
The US Congress has ordered the funding and establishment of a not-inconsiderable Task Force that exists outside of the Army structure to evaluate and recommend new combat structures for adoption (Freedberg, 2017 and US GPO, 2017).
Both conservative (little c) and reformer Generals (serving and retired) are supporting similar efforts to counter A2AD. Many of the more significant suggestions benefit NATO member industries other than the US and to top it all off the British MOD is making noises in the direction of the Strike Brigade and Army 2020 Refine.
Britain has been evolving the Strike Brigade concept and Spain has formed the Experimental Brigade 2035 from the King Alfonso XIII Brigade (Ejército de Tierra, 2018).
Strongpoint Combat Simulations
Current Divisional structures have been repeatedly defeated by Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2AD) structures using multiple simulation methods (Macgregor, 2016).
What can the West do about this situation? In particular, how can the UK - accused of hollowing out its conventional Divisions with a reducing Army headcount - adapt and provide the credible force contribution that NATO requires (Deptula, 2017) to lend conventional deterrence globally?
Fortunately, the current size and strength of the British Army lends it one advantage that no other Western, Allied or Peer armed force possesses, a thread of silver lining that can be seized upon and woven at this moment in time into a powerful and capable future over the next decade.
Whilst not without challenges in doing so, the British Army is small enough to completely change its organisational structure, comprehensively re-equip with modern, proven equipment and retain the levels of world-class personnel, at low risk, without breaking the bank or taking an eon to achieve, if so desired.
This small series of opinion articles will look at a number of issues and tasks the Army is being asked to solve together with the challenges surrounding those solutions and look at just some of the ways structure and equipment can be altered in a sensible and potentially affordable manner.
In order to prevent the scope of what is already a slice of a vast topic, we will focus on the Divisional aspect of the Army, touching upon special supporting aspects as appropriate.
In Part I, key problems will be identified and their impacts discussed.
Part II will see a distillation of key requirements for solving the problems and challenges.
In Part III an organisational approach and a template combat formation structure will be introduced to demonstrate one possible route the Army can take to solving the requirements. Placeholder equipment, ranks and concepts will be offered for illustrative purposes.
In order to avoid falling into the trap of Fantasy Fleets, in Part IV we will look at how we could transform from the current organisational structure to implement the template using and preserving the personnel and equipment we have now.
Recognising that this template is not a panacea for solving all challenges the Army will face, Part V will touch upon roles that other formations and services such as the Air Assault Brigade and Royal Marine Commandos perform that will be critical.
Finally, a number of Appendices may or may not be added based on responses to expand further on certain topics touched upon in the series.
An overriding theme throughout will be on utilising “proven technologies”. While challenging the conventional wisdom we will not be reaching for unobtanium coated sci-fi equipment and instead we will be looking at existing structures and equipment. Where reasonable development is required this will be highlighted as such.
Please stand by…
Posts in this series
Deptula, D. Lt. Gen, USAF (Ret). (2017). The Future of All Arms Warfare in the 21st Century. Retrieved from https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Deptula_03-15-17.pdf
Ejército de Tierra. (2018). BRIGADA 2035. Un nuevo concepto para futuros conflictos. Retrieved from http://www.ejercito.mde.es/estructura/briex_2035/index.html
Freedberg, S. J. Jr. (2017). New Army Unit To Test Tactics: Meet The Multi-Domain Task Force. Retrieved from https://breakingdefense.com/2017/03/new-army-unit-to-test-tactics-meet-the-multi-domain-task-force/
Macgregor, D. Col (Ret). (2016). A Competitive Performance Analysis: Current and Alternative Force Designs against Russian Forces. Retrieved from http://www.douglasmacgregor.com/RSGSASCBRIEFFINALshow.ppsx
Nance, B. Maj. (2017). The US Army’s High-Intensity Problem. Retrieved from https://mwi.usma.edu/us-armys-high-intensity-problem/
United States Government Publishing Office. (2017). Calendar No. 469 114TH CONGRESS 2D SESSION S. 2943 [Report No. 114–255]. Retrieved from https://www.congress.gov/114/bills/s2943/BILLS-114s2943pcs.pdf