Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Back to the Future

I was a Cold War soldier.  I entered active duty in 1976 as an Armor officer, and our mantra was Comnined Arms.  Armor, infantry, and artillery all together on the battlefield,   When I went to the Cavalry course in the early '80s, I learned about combining those arms in small units.  A Cavalry leader will have all three (armor, infantry, artillery) under his direct control.  There are very few mortals who are closer to God than a Cavalry regimental commander on a battlefield.

Our Army has been embroiled in a counter-insurgency war for the past decade.   Not since the Iraq invasion in 2003 has the Army fielded large formations of combined arms.  Yet, as a retired officer, I thought that the Army still practiced the concepts of combined arms training.  Imagine my surprise when I read Austin Bay's article in Strategy Page this morning.
 The budget shortfalls over the last six to eight years have eroded the Army's ability to win a land war with a near-peer adversary. Thompson pointed out that for the last decade the Army has focused on counter-insurgency operations (think Afghanistan).
What?  We can't win against a near-peer adversary?  It's one thing to fight goat-herders in Afghanistan, it's another thing entirely to fight against another modern army.  What happens if, for example, someone starts probing the defenses of NATO?
A near-peer adversary -- possessing these new weapons -- has been probing the air defenses of NATO's Nordic members and threatening the borders of NATO's Baltic states: Russia. 
Yep, the Russian Bear is back.  Fortunately, Sec Mattis has a plan to counter that adventureism.
The Army can tap reserve stocks of tanks and armored personnel carriers, which reduces costs. However, they require refurbishment. The Army needs equipment to defeat new weapons in adversary arsenals, to include armed drones and long range "smart missiles" with anti-armor munitions.
Good.  At least he's thinking ahead.  The Army needs divisions, and the only way to get divisions is to fund them.  As an old combined=arms soldier, I'm surprised that the warriors forgot that simple lesson.  I'm sure that most of the career combat arms officers were busy fighting the COIN battle.  But, Mattis is a thinker and a leader, and he sees threats clearly.


Old NFO said...

They also need to reopen NTC and rehire all the opfor temps... sigh

Dave said...

NTC and JRTC are still there. CMTC(Hohenfels) is now called the JMTC, IIRC. The 11th ACR OPFOR has been covering the full spectrum from HIC to COIN for at least 3 years, now. How much they've pulled from recent Russian organization and tactics, I'm not sure.

One thing that might be hard about putting full divisions in the field, at least in the near term: all the old Divisional commands - DIVARTY, DIVENG, DISCOM - are mostly gone. (I think some Divarty HQs may have been resurrected) Their assets now belong to the BCTs.

The BCTs now looks an awful lot like PawPaw's Cav regiment - the BCT commander owns the artillery, engineers, and sustainment troops that used to belong the respective DIV- commands. This makes the BCTs more self-sufficient than the old brigades, but makes the Division less robust. (For an example, the old fourth (GS) artillery battalion of DIVARTY is gone.)

Also, the Army has lost roughly a division's worth of heavy/mech troops - two brigades of 2ID and one from 1AD that are now medium weight Stryker BCTs, along with 2ACR.

Retired Spook said...

There's a reason that they called Gen. Mattis a "warrior monk". He's a good man, and a damned fine leader, and I'd be surprised if he doesn't have Sun Tzu and Clauswitz both committed to memory. He's probably the smartest, most war-savvy SecDef we've have in 50 years or more.