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Technology Significantly Increases Situation Awareness for Small Unit Forces


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In the U.S. Army's transition to a modular division structure, one of the things we gave up was our division cavalry squadron. We may miss having a screening force designed to be able to get out there and fight for information. UAVs just don't do the same thing.

Not exactly. Each BCT has gained a reconnaisance squadron. This is a capability that previously did not exist. Thus, a modular Division with 3 Bde's has effectively tripled its reconnaisance squadrons.

Additionally, a modular division can be provided a Battlefield Surveillance Brigade. The end result is an extrememly robust and layered ISR capability from Division to Brigade, on down to battalion.

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Hummers for the Infantry brigade.....

From Wiki:

Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition Squadron
  • Headquarters and Headquarters Troop
  • Mounted Reconnaissance Troop with HMMWVs (x 2)
  • Dismounted Reconnaissance Troop
  • Surveillance Troop

800px-Infantry_Brigade_Combat_Team_Organization.svg.png

Bradleys & armoured Hummers for het Heavy:

Armed Reconnaissance Squadron
  • Headquarters and Headquarters Troop
  • Armed Reconnaissance Troop (x 3)
    • Armed Reconnaissance Platoon (x 2)
      • M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle (x 3)
      • M1114 Up-Armored HMMWV w/ Long-Range Advanced Scout Surveillance System (LRAS3) (x 5)

      [*]120mm Mortar Section

800px-Heavy_Brigade_Combat_Team_Organization.svg.png

Strykers in the Stryker Brigade (well it figures really....)

Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition Squadron
  • Headquarters and Headquarters Troop
  • Mounted Reconnaissance Troop (Stryker) (x 3)
  • Surveillance Troop

800px-Stryker_Brigade_Combat_Team_Organization.svg.png

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Not exactly. Each BCT has gained a reconnaisance squadron. This is a capability that previously did not exist. Thus, a modular Division with 3 Bde's has effectively tripled its reconnaisance squadrons.

Additionally, a modular division can be provided a Battlefield Surveillance Brigade. The end result is an extrememly robust and layered ISR capability from Division to Brigade, on down to battalion.

Sure, we have ISR coming out of our ears; given how things are going, I'd be surprised if this wasn't the case. I was thinking of the more traditional cavalry role of screening/battlefield reconnaissance - i.e., that which was done with tanks, Brads, etc. What's the rough makeup of these reconnaissance squadrons and surveillance brigades?

I do find a lot of things to like about the new structure; main criticisms I've heard were things like no more engineer battalion at brigade level messes with promotions, etc. Though really when you get down to it, I kind of liked great big brigades with great big battalions, and some of this modularity stuff smacks of trying to pretend we have a bigger army by inflating the number of brigades. But I'm out of date on this stuff - it's impossible to keep up with everything, and I've been out for too long. A couple little wars and suddenly all my old uniforms are fit for museums, the Army's taking counterinsurgency seriously, dogs and cats are living together... mass hysteria!

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That's what I was inferring with my quip about fighting the Chinese. We always prepare for the last war - it's an axiom of military thinking. The next major war with a major power will see units like this chewed up and spit out. There is no staying power. As long as we are focused on asymmetrical warfare, these light forces are OK, but they will not serve us well if, for instance, the balloon goes up in Korea or, heaven forbid, in Europe again. Hell, I doubt they would work against the Iranians if they threw quantities of regulars against such units.

Sure, as long as we rule the skies, we can rain ICM's and PGM's on their heads, but what if - even for a while - we had to struggle for air supremacy? What if it takes a while to bring up support forces?

We have leaned down the force to pure muscle and there is no "fat" for endurance and combat losses. This TO&E is reminiscent of the old "Constabulary" force of occupation in post-WW2 Europe. Heavy on mobility, light armor and communications/civil affairs but light on combat power with any endurance. And endurance is always measured in quantity, if history teaches anything. It just seems very imbalanced. If we had a solid mix of traditional "heavy" forces and some of these brigades, well perhaps that would be OK, but it seems we are committing ourselves to entirely this sort of light brigade structure. Very hi-tech but also very body-deficient.

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A good historical parallel, perhaps, is the British Army circa 1900 or so. Highly skilled, the backbone is the long-term NCOs. Fantastic ability to deploy and support overseas operations, anywhere. High level of training, and superior to all probable opponents by way of ability to apply aimed firepower. Not really configured to take on a major opponent, but certainly able to handle 1-2 regional conflicts, if necessary simultaneously.

And frankly, not a little proud of itself for its history of going to obscure places and demolishing the natives.

Historically, what gave the British army its comuppance was not a major conflict, but rather a regional one against an opponent - the Boers - who used a low-cost force (nationalist volunteers) tied with some bits of modern technology (Mausers, pom-pom guns, insurgency tactics) to hand the world's best army the British a series of embaressing, bloody noses.

But then maybe history won't repeat itself. Maybe the Americans are too clever to walk into their own Boer War.

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A good historical parallel, perhaps, is the British Army circa 1900 or so. Highly skilled, the backbone is the long-term NCOs. Fantastic ability to deploy and support overseas operations, anywhere. High level of training, and superior to all probable opponents by way of ability to apply aimed firepower. Not really configured to take on a major opponent, but certainly able to handle 1-2 regional conflicts, if necessary simultaneously.

And frankly, not a little proud of itself for its history of going to obscure places and demolishing the natives.

Historically, what gave the British army its comuppance was not a major conflict, but rather a regional one against an opponent - the Boers - who used a low-cost force (nationalist volunteers) tied with some bits of modern technology (Mausers, pom-pom guns, insurgency tactics) to hand the world's best army the British a series of embaressing, bloody noses.

Perhaps that's a little over-simplifying things. Of significant effect was the maturation of Victorian 'volunteerism', which by this stage had seen talentless amatuers like Buller rise to a high level of responsibility. Relatedly was the hubris that had come from winning a series of smaller-scale conflicts over the past 50 years and the almost obessional idea that 'British pluck' would win out over anything, leading to a gneral malaise in doctrinal development. The ultimate fruit of this same phenomenon was also displayed in the early years of WW1.

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It might have been Claude Shannon who said it originally, but I heard it first from Graham Mathieson when he said "Everbody asks who consumes information. Nobody asks what information consumes. But the answer is fairly obvious; information consumes the attention of the user."

Now, do you want infantrymen head-down looking at their PBI-Pod, or head-up looking at the bad guys trying to hide behind that tree?

For that i'm not to keen to use word information, just were too lazy to dig up right word for english, so i guessed word 'filter' would make it up. Information is that unfiltered slob of things which we need to filter or pay attention to get attention of right... err... is the word facts? Those facts should be pouring down to laptop.

Quite frankly i wouldn't give this kind tech to single rifleman but just to squad leader-level. Hell i've used to not having radio communications in between SL and PL, so i quess one laptop per platoon would be well enough if SL and PL are being able to communicate thru radios and having piece of paper, map and pens as SL's "laptop". But i've probably got used to too small and simple things, not understnading full potential of having source of info which is there just to give you more and more (mroe or less correct) facts of situation and not fear of blocking radio communications while you are at it.

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I think that angle is already covered in the replies above: this is not about utility in the middle of a firefight. More about helping to plan where and when you get into that ifrefight in the first place.

I'm not so much worried about what people are doing in the middle of a firefight -- I'm sure bullets heading towards you will do an excellent job of winning your attention from other things -- as the moments before a firefight starts. I want my blokes to see the enemy first. The capital assumption of much of this modern "reconaissance-strike-complex" stuff (as Marshal Ogarkov called it a quarter of a century ago) is that the blokes in the rear with the beer and streaming video feeds from a swarm of drones can know what is going on in front of Corporal Mulligan better than he can himself by the clever use of Eyeball Mk 1 Mod 0. This is I think yet to be shown to be generally true; certainly not with enough confidence to replace several Corporals Mulligan with UAVs and UAV-fanciers. Of course, if you are a vast armaments corporation intent on flogging UAVs at enormous expense, you may have a different view of the matter.

As to planning, I still think that needs to be done by people in the same room. You are not going to be able to distribute staff cells from a unit of formation HQ successfully with the shockingly inadequate state of collaborative working tools now, even before their performance is degraded by painting them green. And orders should still be given face-to-face as far as possible.

At sub-unit level, yes, there will be a benefit from knowing what your flanking elements are up to from moment to moment, but this is more a question of synchronising execution than planning; the fast re-planning on the fly that might happen I expect would be done by recognition-primed decision-making, and I would think a position-reporting screen and a traditional all-informed voice net are all that will help here.

IMNSHO a lot of what needs to be done in this field is actually nothing whatever to do with technology, it's more to do with formal language. The armed forces desperately need a battlespace description language with formally-defined semantics, capable of expressing the degree to which information is uncertain (and there are several different flavours of uncertainty). In this repect, at least, I think the German and American armies are closer to a satisfactory solution than the British, but arguably it matters less because the British Army is so small that everyone knows each other.

But as ever, it's not the information you have, but what you do with it. It's still going to be up to the quality of the officer on the ground whether he can assimilate that extra data into a winning plan or conversely, become paralysed by the sheer weight of potentially contradictory data he is now privvy to.

You shouldn't send him data if it's no good to him -- at least not in action, out of action let him fill his boots (as per Slim's "information centres" for 14th Army -- but these were for morale-building purposes, nothing else). Also, you probably shouldn't send him updates too often. See Nicholas Naseem Taleb, "Fooled by Randomness", on why he looks at the stock market prices once a year instead of once a minute.

All the best,

John.

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For that i'm not to keen to use word information, just were too lazy to dig up right word for english, so i guessed word 'filter' would make it up. Information is that unfiltered slob of things which we need to filter or pay attention to get attention of right... err... is the word facts? Those facts should be pouring down to laptop.

There are two common ways of slicing up these differences, which causes massive confusion among English speakers because they never know which of the teo their interlocutor is using.

Information systems people tend to use "data" for the unfiltered stuff and "information" for what it is turned into; the Army, with less respect for Latin, tend to use "information" for the unfiltered stuff, and "knowledge" for what it is turned in to.

Quite frankly i wouldn't give this kind tech to single rifleman but just to squad leader-level. Hell i've used to not having radio communications in between SL and PL, so i quess one laptop per platoon would be well enough if SL and PL are being able to communicate thru radios and having piece of paper, map and pens as SL's "laptop". But i've probably got used to too small and simple things, not understnading full potential of having source of info which is there just to give you more and more (mroe or less correct) facts of situation and not fear of blocking radio communications while you are at it.

I think you're right to worry about clogging up the available comms channels.

But then I remember when there was only one radio in a platoon, too, and if it was a Pye Westminster then you could be pretty sure that there were no comms between platoon and company, either.

All the best,

John.

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Perhaps that's a little over-simplifying things. Of significant effect was the maturation of Victorian 'volunteerism', which by this stage had seen talentless amatuers like Buller rise to a high level of responsibility. Relatedly was the hubris that had come from winning a series of smaller-scale conflicts over the past 50 years and the almost obessional idea that 'British pluck' would win out over anything, leading to a gneral malaise in doctrinal development. The ultimate fruit of this same phenomenon was also displayed in the early years of WW1.

what nonsense.

the British did a lot of doctrinal work prior to 1914, and it showed in the performance of the BEF.

They even continued it in the early years of the war - looking for answers to the defensive trench & MG combo.

Sadly for 20,000 men on 1 July 1916 they had got it wrong - but that was the kind of error that pretty much every army was making at the time - not getting the right answer to the defensive.

It was the German and French offensive doctrines in 1914 were truely abysmal and cost 10's of thousands of lives - teh Schiefflen plan was great as a strategy - but then it was carried out by troops who sometimes attacked in close columns within range of breach-loading-magazine rifles........ as did French infantry in the Battle of the Frontiers.

And while French & Haig are often despised for the casualties they lost they weer at least trying to make honest attempts to break the deadlock, nd hte result was that after 4 years of hard knocks the British army probably "had it" in terms of it's chosen path of heavy artillery & Aerial observation.

WW1 British forces certainly did inheret something from "Victorian volunteerism" - a realisation that it wasn't good enough and decade of trying to fix it.

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Which is why our ancestors got geniuses like Stopford, Godley and Hunter-Weston.

As well as:

Sir Walter Norris Congreve

Lord Frederick Rudolf Lambart “Fatty” Earl of Cavan

William George Walker

Louis Lipsett

Cyril Aubrey Blacklock

Ivor Maxse

Gen Sir (Henry De) Beauvoir de Lisle

Frederick William Lumsden

“Inky Bill” Ingouville-Williams

Clifford Coffin

Gerald Farrell Boyd

Charles St Leger Barter

Sir George Frederick “Blood Orange”Gorringe

R. Broadwood

Nevill Maskelyne 'The Sphinx' Smyth

Sir (Hugh) Keppel “Beetle” Bethell

Sir Arthur William Currie

Sir Julian Byng

And many many more good than bad. One can find bad in any conflict.

I think SO said it rather well.

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Anyone care to comment about what I had to say about the TO&E issues? Am I even partially right or am I barking up the wrong tree, these light brigades are the cat's meow?

Gunner,

I wouldn't necessarily categorize them as light...You can always add more if necessary.

The new Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) are very self sufficient.

Think of the new BCTs as smaller versions of the tradtional Armored Cavalry Regiments. They come with everything they need. There are 3 types. Heavy (HBCT), Stryker (SBCT), and Infantry (BCT), as well as special BCTs, such as the Battlefield Surveillance Brigade (which by the way comes with its own reconaissance squadron).

Under the concept of modularity, you can take a division HQ and add whatever number and type of BCT to Division for whatever mission the Division is undertaking. Traditional Division organization is out and modularity is in. You can have a division HQ from particular installation, and all it's Task Organized brigades from elsewhere, to include the National Guard.

Thus, if we were to conduct major combat operations, a division might have 2 HBCTs, a SBCT and a BCT, as well as a BFSB. All these units may very well come from other divisions.

If that same division were to conduct irregular warfare or limited intervention it might have 1 HBCT, 1 SBCT, and 1 BCT, or whatever is deemed necessary.. It's all mission dependent.

The HBCTs, and BCTs have certainly been leaned down with regards to combat units, and, in particular, with regards to infantry. There are however more of the BCTs now and therefore more BCTs can be added to a division's Task Org if needed. The SBCTs have not been leaned down. In fact, they are quite robust in terms of number of infantry assigned.

If it is determined that 1 BCT does not have all the necessary assets to fulfill a particular mission, then additional BCTs can be added to the force so that the required capabilities are available.

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Under the concept of modularity, you can take a division HQ and add whatever number and type of BCT to Division for whatever mission the Division is undertaking. Traditional Division organization is out and modularity is in. You can have a division HQ from particular installation, and all it's Task Organized brigades from elsewhere, to include the National Guard.

Great idea if it works, it would replicate the German ability to mix and match formations under HQ capable of commanding anything, in theoretically any mission. The key then was that of course Wehrmacht division HQ were staffed by WW2 German officers, and HQ-quality ones at that - the German way was put the best officers in the HQ.

That is a bit different from the US Army I knew, where the further you were from bn and even co, the more you were a remf. The standard there was, basically, push the best officers as far down the command chain as possible, get them close to the troops.

There's alot to say for that approach but of course it doesn't work towards creating the very best HQ possible. I wonder if that tradition has changed - if it hasn't then you might have a situation where the people in the US divisional hq are overwhelmed by the

task of commanding combined arms forces that they are not so familiar with, in missions they really haven't trained for.

A good acid test would be to ask whether, today, an existing division HQ - let's say 3rd ID - could handle a division-size mission out of its "normal" mission. I suspect the answer is "partially"; I would imagine 3rd ID's HQ could operate in an intense, mech-heavy environment very well, and probably do a fair job occupying land and repressing an insurgency. But I wonder how an HQ like that would handle ops in a place like Afghanistan, where you're infantry-heavy and air transport is a really critical part of your operational scheme.

I suspect we are not to the point where today's division HQs could handle, all the time, the mix-and-match brigades. Provided the personnel quality and organization desire to get the job done is there, I have no doubt they could learn.

Which brings us to a second excellent acid test: When a US Army improves his chances for a high-flying career if he works in division and higher headquarters, then we can be sure the US Army is serious about creating division and higher HQ capable of handling the mix-and-match brigade concept.

Last I heard, a staff job at division was anything but career-enhancing for an officer employed in the Big Green Machine. But maybe that's changed.

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There is that - the fact that armies are organizations, bureaucracies with all the usual inner workings that have little to do with their mission, but everything to do with getting ahead, building empires, repudiating your predecessor's work and reinventing the wheel, preferably with a few new sides.

It's amazing we accomplish as much as we do...

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BD and Gunner,

With the reorganization of the BCTs, the HQs have undergone significant reorganization as well.

https://rdl.train.army.mil/soldierPortal/atia/adlsc/view/public/22617-1/FM/FMI5-0.1/chap2.htm;jsessionid=62PMJHvWbQDFQ7JZYPLdntnv2lF1MQBnTklQQLT11bhkmG1sQ2Wb!550800321

The 2003 version of FM 6-0 Mission Command has one staff organization. Three years later, after modularity and experiences from OIF, FMI 5-0.1 established the new staff structure. FMI 5-0.1 was again updated in March 2008 and made permanent.

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BH,

Can't open the linkie.

So, if you get a staff job at division, is that as career-enhancing as the traditional US Army career boosters? You know, troop command or adjutant to a general or a tour inside Army personnel in St. Louis?

Gunner,

What I meant was, one of the things that made the Wehrmacht a really effective army was that staff officer work was considered just as important as command work, and that headquarters units were a basic piece of operational planning. Read Manstein, the Wehrmacht commander par excellence. He'll list so many divisions and a couple of regiments dragged up for an ad hoc operation, and then always includes the hq in charge, and it's clear he knew which hq were the good ones. When he lists the units in a division, it's not just the three regiments, it's three regiments and the headquarters.

The point is, that a pro like Manstein considered HQ absolutely critical to flexible combined arms operations. HQ were not support, they were the brains, the imaginative, experienced commanders capable of thinking on their feet, operationally, not just as they were trained but as the situation demanded, and without them rapid operations were not possible. The attitude was no accident, but rather from a conscious decision by the German General Staff to deal with the chaos of war by instituting capable headquarters units staffed by the best officers they could get.

This was not the way the rest of the major armies in WW2 went about their business. Today's modern US Army is of course always changing, but my impression is the role of headquarters and headquarters staff is different from the German Wehrmacht standard. In the US Army, traditionally, staff officers have less status than unit commanders, and the higher-quality officers avoid more than the minimum of staff time - which generally is seen as a springboard to unit command rather than an end in itself.

Which is all well and good, there is something to be said for a policy placing the most competent officers closest to the troops. But in the US Army tradition, headquarters units are secondary support units, not the key to operations.

I am wondering whether, in the face of that tradition, the US Army will do well organizing the command of a mixed bag of brigades by generic headquarters units.

Another thing worth thinking about is, given how fast comms technology is going, maybe intermediate hq like the division hq are going to be obsolete. Sure, the supply and support functions will continue to exist in any case, but what about the thinking and the information flow? Time was, one of the important things a division HQ did was filter information going to higher, and of course break down instructions going the other way to the regiments.

But now? Intelligence collection and transfer is getting so fast and automated, the logical next step is concentration of all the analysis in one place, the higher the better, just let one central intell unit process all the data.

Likewise, as information about the battlefield gets more detailed, it will - at least theoretically - become easier for higher levels of command to give useful instructions downward, further. More or less, maybe we are moving in a direction where Corps will be, due to modern comms and automation, quite capable of issuing orders to brigades directly. If so, then who needs the division commander?

Just food for thought.

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I just wanted to toss this old article about the Army's Land Warrior system - the article is about a year and a half old and I haven't seen anything on it since. Apparently it was on the chopping block but these guys who used it thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. http://www.militarytimes.com/news/2007/06/army_warrior_070623p/

I guess there is a new Land Warrior type system being developed now (called something else). The Kevlar helmet was new and exciting when I was in so I'm a little out of date with all this new organization and tech stuff :)

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