Hybrid Enemies/4 generation warfare

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by jay2o, Feb 5, 2009.

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  1. the following is relevant to any western military;

    For the past fifty years, the US military has sized, trained and equipped its ground forces to battle a conventional, mechanized, tank heavy opponent, organized in companies, battalions and brigades, with supporting artillery and aircraft. Training scenarios envisioned a repeat of World War II tank battles, Army units were run through simulated armored clashes in the open deserts at its premier training ground, the NTC at Ft. Irwin, Ca. Now, at its training centers, the Army, and Marines also train for urban counterinsurgency.

    That the Army’s big-battle mindset hasn’t gone far, despite eight years spent fighting two counterinsurgency wars, can be seen in an article on the Small Wars Journal web site by an Army captain who recently completed the captain’s career course and had this to say: “With rare exception, the exercises which hone officers’ skills in these areas are focused on the conventional Fulda gap-style battle… Despite all that has been written about third-generation warfare (Blitzkrieg) and fourth-generation warfare (state vs. non-state), we operated largely in the second generation of warfare.”

    A small group of strategic thinkers are flexing their intellectual muscle, and a new opponent model is taking shape against which America’s ground forces will be configured to fight (with the Marines way ahead of the Army). Called “hybrid” enemies, they come equipped with high-end, precision guided weapons, yet fight in distributed networks of small units and cells more akin to guerrillas. One of the leading scholars in this group, Frank Hoffman, who advises the Marines and is a researcher at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, says hybrid wars, “blend the lethality of state conflict with the fanatical and protracted fervor of irregular warfare.” Theory moved to reality when Hezbollah, equipped with loads of advanced missiles and skillfully using urban terrain, fought the Israeli army to a stand still in 2006. Hezbollah, Hoffman says, “is representative of the rising hybrid threat.”

    Defense Secretary Robert Gates has given his imprimatur to the hybrid opponent as the new OpFor, first in his recent Foreign Affairs piece, and then again in his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee. In his Senate hearing, speaking about the Army’s FCS program, Gates said that unless new weapons and vehicles can be shown to be effective in complex hybrid wars, they shouldn’t be funded. I’ve also heard that some services, I’m thinking of the Marines here, were loathe to buy into the irregular warfare mission as they couldn’t justify their more expensive new systems to fight counterinsurgencies, but they have a better chance at getting what they want if they play up the hybrid threat.

    I thought I’d flesh out a bit exactly what the military has in mind when they discuss hybrid wars.

    While Hezbollah may be the hybrid archetype, Hoffman says they’re not limited to non-state actors. “States can shift their conventional units to irregular formations and adopt new tactics as Iraq’s fedayeen did in 2003.” He said evidence shows that a number of Middle East militaries are modifying their forces to fight in a hybrid style, Iran being one such country. One of the challenges faced by the U.S. military, is it fights in largely predictable fashion, only with the Iraq war have efforts been made to adapt to different styles of fighting such as irregular warfare. What Hezbollah demonstrated, Hoffman says, is “the ability of non-state actors to study and deconstruct the vulnerabilities of Western-style militaries and devise appropriate countermeasures.”

    Hezbollah’s “highly disciplined, well-trained distributed cells contested ground against a modern conventional force using an admixture of guerrilla tactics and technology in densely packed urban centers… the antitank guided missile systems employed by Hezbollah against IDF armor and defensive positions, coupled with decentralized tactics, were a surprise,” Hoffman writes. They also used lots of IEDs, so they attacked Israeli armor from multiple dimensions. A very detailed account of the IDF’s ground battles against Hezbollah can be found in this piece by Combat Studies Historian Matt Mathews. The point he makes is not just that Hezbollah had precision guided anti-armor weapons, but they had them in spades, allowing prolific use against both armor and as man-portable artillery used against infantry in the open and inside buildings.

    Go read Tom Ricks’ terrific reporting of the Taliban attack last year on the Wanat Outpost in Afghanistan to get a sense for the lethality of this man-portable artillery in the hands of guerrilla fighters. The RPG is a very short range (under 500 meters) weapon, but it has a very large warhead that while designed to penetrate thick armor, the HEAT warhead generates a large explosion and a sizeable fireball lethal to anybody standing nearby. The larger missiles on systems such as TOW are even more devastating to infantry, even if in a sandbagged bunker. If the Taliban had AT-13 Metis or AT-14 Kornet anti-armor missiles, the U.S. casualty toll in that battle would likely have been much higher.

    In addition to having a powerful warhead in a compact package, anti-armor missiles are becoming fire-and-forget weapons. With the older style, such as the ubiquitous Sagger, the operator had to guide the missile into the target with a joystick and the directions traveled to the missile via thin wire unspooled as it sped downrange. Newer models, such as the AT-14 Kornet, are laser beam riders, allowing relatively untrained troops to use them effectively. On various internet discussion boards in recent months there was talk of the new Russian built RPG-30, designed specifically to penetrate armored vehicles outfitted with active-protection systems, by first firing a decoy round, which is followed by the actual warhead a millisecond later. This sounds like an upgrade to the existing RPG-29.

    Reading accounts of American troops being outgunned in close range firefights, I’ve always wondered why the U.S. has never developed an RPG equivalent, a short range, heavy firepower weapon. The old LAW rocket certainly didn’t fit the bill. The AT-4 is not bad, but it’s big, bulky and one shot and I rarely if ever see soldiers carrying it around. It could have something to do with the American way of war, the preference for fighting from stand-off ranges. Perhaps the Russian love of RPGs can be explained by their traditional “close combat” preference. Then again, it was the Germans who developed the first RPG (the Panzerfaust), although that was probably more out of necessity, to kill swarms of Soviet tanks, than a preference for close combat.

    But not all strategists are ready to embrace Hezbollah as the future enemy archetype. A recent write-up of the implications of the 2006 Lebanon war by Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations says the complex blending of different styles of war will certainly make the job of force planners more difficult, but its a mistake that a “Hezbollah threat should replace the Red Army in the Fulda Gap as the focus for U.S. defense planning.” Lebanon does show, Biddle argues, that focusing solely on irregular warfare, what the military defines as “a violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant populations,” would also be a mistake. There is no escaping real world trade-offs in defense planning, he says.

    The military leadership is thinking how to best organize and equip forces to battle hybrid enemies. Short term answers such as adding more armor to existing tanks and APCs, such as the Israelis are doing, will likely spur hybrid enemies to discover ways to counter heavier armor or perhaps even active protection. I’d be interested to hear what our readers think.

    tom ricks report of a taliban attack

    article link

    i have two questions

    should a substantial part of the regular army, shift their tactics from second generation warfare over towards third generation?

    also do you think a small element of the armed forces be trained to fight as a fourth generation force?
    and perhaps live closely with afghan residents
  2. jay20,

    leaving aside the arguments over whether 4th Gen warfare is truly something new (my position is that it is not),

    Only if you are not worried about being able to do the other stuff. The Americans can afford to do both - we can't. Ultimately, state on state warfare has the potential to do more harm. History is not dead. Or, to paraphrase Zhou en lai - it's too early to tell.

    OMLT, etc.
  3. i was thinking more along the lines of flexibility
    a force perhaps the size of a battalion having their basic military rules completely irregular. a western military is extremely rigid in its philosophy
    couldnt hurt to have flexibility in order to takle a conflict thats not with russia :wink:
  4. jay20,

    what do you refer to by 'basic military rules?'

    Rules of engagement?


    Standard operating procedures?

    Something else?

    How do you envisage such an organisation working within the framework of national and international laws?

  5. these are just rough ideas dont take them as anything else

    tactics. less reliance on standoff contacts and idf supports and reduce the huge supply lines

    restrict FOB and larger bases which are in the minds of many natives; only symbols of oppresion not liberation

    more interaction with the locals not just day trips. more living along side the populace (when secure)

    actually fight back in the propaghana war.
    i read about many contacts with the taliban which arnt publicised by the MOD but are by the enemy. extremist organisations publish bollacks about how many british they killed when in reality they lost 20+ insurgents and we had 0 casualties.

    also actvily promote education in the middle east. as most fighters are illiterate and know nothing more than they are told by extremist preachers.....how?...dont underestimate the power of the dollar

    but more than that what im basically suggesting is that a larger number act like special forces; trained to fight outnumbered and low profile.

    before anyone takes this the wrong way i dont pretend to be an expert, and am far from it. i have no wish to piss anyone off
  6. jay20,

    Casualty aversion. The significant technical advantage we hold over the insurgent is largely what accounts for our low casualty figures and tactical success. The technical edge (and distance from home) then account for the supply lines. Doctrine and training are of course significant too - but reflect that technical edge. Operating in a more dispersed, embedded way can certainly work - but entails risk. An embedded force without that technical support is merely another tribe amongst the many belligerents. An embedded force able to call on technical support is not significantly different from OMLTs - except perhaps in tour duration. See the thread on 12 month tours.

    But attaining that security is the very problem we seek to address.

    This is an area of weakness, but to a degree it is more a question of providing the security which will in turn provide the moral authority for words to be believed. Are you aware of the 'Comprehensive Approach' aspired to? Some of the points you are making are well worn. As far as the black propaganda - consider the target. Did you believe it? Who is it aimed at? Afghan villagers (often illiterate, unlikely to have internet access)? Or western, middle eastern and north african muslims who are already pre-disposed to believe such nonsense? If you look at the rpeponderance of videos, articles and comment on the internet and in the media, there is little sympathy for Afghan insurgents.

    Again - hardly a novel approach. This is precisely the strategy being followed - create security, create the necessary state institutions to allow rule of law, economic growth, encourage and resource education, invest in reconstruction, etc. But note that the military part of that is almost exclusively about the first part - and even there the military can at best ensure only an acceptable level of violence. There is far more to be done to ensure security by other agencies - the courts, policing, etc. Frankly, the going is slow and frustrating, and it is largely not a military issue, because militaries are not structured to provide the necessary apparatus for rebuilding states (nor could they be and still be military forces - some things have to be done by other agencies).

    I refer you to my previous post, and first point above. Remember, you fight with the army you have, not the one you may wish to have, and constrained by the legal, moral, ethical, political environment within which you find yourself. And if the army were to re-organise and re-role as an exclusively counterinsurgency force - what happens the next time Russia feels frisky near the Black Sea, in the region of our NATO allies? Or in ten or fifteen years time, when we have lost our capacity for major combat operations?

    There's only so much in the pot - we are an insurance policy; don't cash us in the first time you get a dent in the wing.

  7. seaweed

    seaweed LE Book Reviewer

    Think we were there over half a century ago in Malaya (although tanks didn't come into it). Then later the Radfan, Oman etc.


    Suppose in ten years time Putin has given place to a less thoughtful dictator who decides to take a poke at the West. The kit and training for heavy warfare can't be dreamed up overnight, we have to have it in place as an insurance policy and it's all long-lead stuff. That, for instance, leaving aside the ballsup over their aircraft and the sub-optimal decision about VSTOL, is why we have to build the new aircraft carriers (and why the US have just commissioned USS George H W Bush).
  8. Biped

    Biped LE Book Reviewer

    Is it not a sensible to incorporate all evolution of warfare bar the obsolete into doctrines?

    Asymetric warfare may be the most prevalent at this time, but that's not to say that massed conventional battles are a thing of the past.

    A modern national armed force need to be conversant and able in all forms of warfare.

    Insurgencies of all types, asymetric warfare, asymetric FIBUA, massed vehicle warfare, nuclear, chemical, biological and other forms.

    The military force must be conversant with current warfare threats and styles on a top-to-bottom level, but with ongoing remedial training for other forms, or a maintenance of the skill-set and knowledge from where massed re-training can go into effect.

    An example of this would be the art of Sniping - stopped repeatedly, but also repeatedly found to be needed as a form of warfare over many years, and only through the maintenance of such skills and knowledge by at least one unit in the British Army throughout that time could it be brought back into mainstream use - the Royal Marines being a case in point.

    As long as there is a unit or multiple thereof training in and being skilled in any particular threat or style of warfare, it can quickly be developed and taught across the entire military force. The trick is never to lose that skill-set, and never stop devoping or evolving it.

    It's easy to have a bunch of training manuals and nobody reading them, but if they ever have to be dusted off and read after years of being unused, they'll be out of date, unevolved and nobody will have actually tested the theories therein.

    Very simply put - we must keep our skills in ALL types of possible warfare current, and if we don't, we'll lose lives or even wars.

    The problem of course is the military budget. That denies us the opportunity to do this in many cases, and invariably costs many, many lives before it gets sorted. It happened in 1914, and 1939 and since.
  9. I agree with Pay_Mistri that what is now labled "4th generation" warfare is nothing new under the sun. Heck, ambush warfare of the jit and run type is probably the oldest form of conflict as it assuredly is what Grog the caveman's tribe used again his neighbor Nook's tribe to gain control of the valley with the nicest hunting. Yes, the tactics used by the little army (ie. insurgent or guerrilla) change constantly as technology improves but their concept of operations does not. Sad fact is that the US Army is not an animal with a long memory. Back in the mid 80's when I first donned BDU's there were quite a few Viet Nam veterans amongst the leadership... included some mid level NCO's. At the time, that conflict and what worked in it was the bread and butter of our battle drills and influenced every aspect of light infantry operations. Our SOP's would have been easily recognizable to any veteran who had been infantry two decades before. Flash forward to the post Desert Storm era when all the old Vietnam veterans were retired and things started to change. Old techniques, tactics, and operational ideas learned in the jungles of SE Asia didn't get passed along as we had a massive shift of NCO's leaving the Army thanks to the RIF (Reduction In Forces) which made it possible to retire with 15 years of service rather than the usual 20.

    Heck, I got to see this institutional forgetfullness first hand concerning one of my old units. Back fifteen years ago, the standard procedure in the 101st for the initial lift of an air assault was to have the guys responsable for securing the LZ and conducting imediate follow on operations to go in with only their approach load and enough for 24 hours (weapon, water, bullets, bandaids, body armor, and load bearing vest with one MRE broken down in their pockets.) Their rucks would be stacked on a pallet and slung load in on a following lift once the fighting was done. That way those guys on the initial attack could move fast and take care of business. Whole concept dissappeared though as I learned from a good friend who served in OIF-1 with the same battalion that they conducted their initial air assault so heavily loaded that they were unable to do much more than waddle about once they hit the ground. Apparently the commanders were so paranoid about covering every possible scenario that they had them packing practically everything MTO'ed to a rifle platoon and then some. The result was a damned good light infantry force being incapable of any real mobility or flexibility.

    Really is disturbing that my Army has to relearn lessons learned the hard way from generation to generation.
  10. Biped has it exactly right.

    If the enemy have found a new tactic, then we should add it to our repertoire and move on.

    Our weakness is that, as a society, we'd rather spend money on welfare payments than on the armed forces. Would it break the national bank to add one more Regular, light role battalion to every infantry regiment in the army?