Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Future Army - Effective or Not?

A military officer takes issue with some of the Army's plans for the future fighting force in the Armed Forces Journal. He advocates a different approach than what is being forcast, and has some powerful emprical arguments from past engagements to make his point. The future weapon systems of the Army force call for a much lighter and leaner force composition, using netcentric communications to call in lethal force from standoff distance. The good major believes the "new" approach to warfare ignores some basic tenets of the profession - such as the fact that there are times when all your nifty tools might not work as well as advertised.

"But given the current state of technology, the probability of future development in nations across the globe, and a historical perspective on the performance of new and emerging technologies in the past, does this theory stand up to rigorous examination? I argue that it does not. Aside from a near-faith-based, unsubstantiated belief in the efficacy of technology to do anything and everything imaginable, one of the primary factors upon which this assessment is based is its failure to give proper consideration to the capabilities of the future enemy force."

In short, the Army plans to reduce both the survivability of the force and the number of ground vehicles in the force, replacing many of these with pilotless airborne drones - ignoring the fact that these vehicles may encounter weather conditions that preclude their deployment, and the experience we have encountered in the current campagns in which we are adding armor to our existing vehicle inventory, despite facing a technically much inferior enemy today than we are likely to face in the future (say a large populous nation located in East Asia). Another item this officer takes issue with is the planned elimination of the heavy divisional cavalry squadron (quite dear to my heart, since I served in one) which allows for ground based reconaissance when conditions prevent air based recon, and also allows for some serious toe-to-toe butt-kicking if needed, with 27 tanks and 41 Bradleys.

His recommendations, which go far beyond the above mentioned issues (really, read the whole article, it is quite worth the read):

"To summarize, the following nine changes and additions should be made to the Defense Department modernization program:

1. Improve the armored protection of our armored fighting platforms.

2. Increase the ability of reconnaissance forces to fight for information in a degraded mode.

3. Implement a counter-UAV and space-defense program.

4. Return air defense to the tactical formation in recognition of improving threat capabilities.

5. Expand our air transport fleet to enable rapid strategic and operational movement and maneuver.

6. Improve the ability of land forces to engage in operations worldwide via fast sealift and sea basing.

7. Field significant numbers of advanced fighter aircraft to ensure air superiority.

8. Strengthen missile defense.

9. Place an increased emphasis on training the force in light of emerging capabilities with a focus on the realities of ground combat."

Can't say I disagree with any of his arguments.

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