US Army experience of 'smaller' modular brigades. Discuss

#1
Wanted to put this in a forum for keen and serious military (operational) discussion, but found none on ARRSE suitable. So here goes in the Int Cell...

Whilst heavily engaged in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the US Army completed a root & branch restructuring of their operational and tactical fighting units. The key objective was to cascade down support assets such that the brigade, not the division, became the primary unit of deployment. That's to say, brigades (BCTs) are now established with support assets that allow it to deploy and operate independently of higher in-theater command without first 'borrowing' said assets from above. Divisions and corps thus became simple C2 formations with no tactical units permanently under command.

One of intentional side-effects of this restructuring was that the brigade became significantly lighter in numbers and in firepower. Of the four modular types, 3 have only 2 battle group/task force elements. The SBCT retains a third. All 4 types of BCT have a robust recce element, but so would have any of the legacy brigade formations.

TRADOC ninjas several years ago were very keen to suggest that these smaller units would be able to do more, more effectively, and with more bite, than legacy formations - despite the orbat looking to have thinned itself out by 30%. You know, the old saw that new technologies out trump simples numbers.

To cut a long story short, I'm interest in knowing other people's perceptions and experience of these 'smaller' units. After 5 years or so of operational experience, do they provide the right level of firepower and boots on the ground? Do you think they would survive contact against a worthy opponent in high-end warfare - as opposed to the current low end constabulary work.

Discuss.
 
#2
Broadly speaking, I think the modular brigades seem to be working well.

The problem comes when the brigades are grouped together to form higher formations - particularly if there were a need to transition back to 'high end' warfighting. If that were the case, those formations will almost certainly rue the passing of legacy Div and Corps level assets such as the old Armored Cav Squadrons/Regiments.

The RSTA Cavalry Sqn in an HBCT does make up for the fact there are only two combined arms battalions (which I would argue probbaly develop a better cohesion in the long run than our ad-hoc BGs) to a certain extent in some types of operation, but they are currently very lacking in dismount capability. Personallly, I think there is adanger of placing to much emphasis on very specialised ground reconnaissance (as I have said in other threads) at the expense of actual combat power - its almost as if FIND had been totally dislocated from FIX, STRIKE and EXPLOIT.
 
#3
Well if you look at the actual orbats of mostly light BCTs in Afghanistan as reported on the link below (I can't vouch for their accuracy) they vary wildly- inf battalions and cav squadrons attached and detached, Stryker battalions/squadrons attached to light BCTs, battalions from heavy BCTs (operating out of role) attached, MP battalions attached as police advisors- it seems its one thing on paper and another in the field.

Afghanistan - Order of Battle | Institute for the Study of War
 
#4
We wound up having to use BCT units we normally wouldnt have had to provide bodies for PRT's,MTT's, etc. Odd seeing a female truck driver as an ANP mentor. In NY for instance the 1/101st Cavalry and 1/210th Armor bn were disbanded and their M1 Tanks and Brads taken away, replaced with the 2/101 CAV RSTA mounted in Hmmwv's. Not a good trade. The 1/105INF was disbanded, the 1/69INF Lost its E co(anti tank). and most of its HHC support slices and was transformed from Mechanised to Light. The 1/258FA went from M109 Paladins to M198 towed guns.

As you say we lost trigger pullers to add truck drivers and layers of headquarters pogues so the actual fighting elements became smaller.
I shall not dispute your microscopic view of the minutea relevent to your own localised area, but across the US Army the number of "trigger pullers" was not reduced; they were distributed around the force in a different manner. Moreover, the discussion I'm seeking to encourage is not a light v heavy debate.

To put it another way, thanks for your input, but I'm NOT seeking perceptions and personal experiences flowing from individual troops having to rerole, but whether the model of 'more but smaller' is producing advantages over 'less but bigger'. And, moreover, personal insights as to whether these outcomes are limited to low intensity constabulary work or whether they also translate into (and to what extent) high intensity conflict.

Take Gassing_Badgers's response as an example. He suggests that the current experience of low intensity ops have indicated the modular BCT concept works, but questions whether it would work on large scale high intensity missions. I understand his concern. Every modular BCT now has its own RSTA capacity for its own (limited) AOR. On the otherhand, both the division and the corps have lost their (deep) ISTAR completely and reliant on narrow BCT input or theatre level strategic input. It works in localised tactical insurgency efforts, would it work against a major foe that requires serious operational ISTAR coverage?
 
#5
Well if you look at the actual orbats of mostly light BCTs in Afghanistan as reported on the link below (I can't vouch for their accuracy) they vary wildly- inf battalions and cav squadrons attached and detached, Stryker battalions/squadrons attached to light BCTs, battalions from heavy BCTs (operating out of role) attached, MP battalions attached as police advisors- it seems its one thing on paper and another in the field.
The information at the link you provide is so basic as to be meaningless in this context. Maybe my laziness in only looking cursorily at the 'latest' orbat has distorted my view, but it offered NOTHING to this discussion at all; it simply lists the 'lead' BG/TF unit at each location and no more.

If I've missed something important, do tell. Generally speaking, the more detailed orbats that I've witnessed for both Iraq and Afghanistan (admittedly in the immediate period post 'transformation') suggested the modular BCTs were maintaining their integrity very well.

PS. Boks are hardly playing up to their status, are they? I shall be wearing my pre-rainbow nation, pre-protea jersey with pride but lowered expectations this Saturday despite the expected 38C expected here. What do you think of that little Lambie starting? I'm still struggling to come to terms with a team without Danie, Naas and Andre Joubert at FB. I also think they miss the very underrated Gerd Smal - even though he played for those barstewards down in WP.
 
#6
Take Gassing_Badgers's response as an example. He suggests that the current experience of low intensity ops have indicated the modular BCT concept works, but questions whether it would work on large scale high intensity missions. I understand his concern. Every modular BCT now has its own RSTA capacity for its own (limited) AOR. On the otherhand, both the division and the corps have lost their (deep) ISTAR completely and reliant on narrow BCT input or theatre level strategic input. It works in localised tactical insurgency efforts, would it work against a major foe that requires serious operational ISTAR coverage?
That's sort of what the Battlefield Surveillance Brigade (BfSB) was meant to achieve - provision of ISTAR capability to meet the Corp/Div Comds PIRs. There are some good aspects to the concept - ground recce (Humvee RSTA), UAV, SIGINT and HUMINT capability all under one roof - but the overall effect is of moving from a heavy 'college jock' of an ACR to the lighter 'techno-nerd' of BfSB is that the Div/Corps Comd no longer has a force capable of screening of guarding his formation (unless he tasks a BCT, or subordinate unit, which will be unfamiliar with operaing in such a role), or even conducting zone/area reconnaissance in all but the most permissive environments.
 
#7
Hello, hello!!!

Seems the Goldman bricked it himself before I responded. How strange.
 
#8
The information at the link you provide is so basic as to be meaningless in this context. Maybe my laziness in only looking cursorily at the 'latest' orbat has distorted my view, but it offered NOTHING to this discussion at all; it simply lists the 'lead' BG/TF unit at each location and no more.

If I've missed something important, do tell. Generally speaking, the more detailed orbats that I've witnessed for both Iraq and Afghanistan (admittedly in the immediate period post 'transformation') suggested the modular BCTs were maintaining their integrity very well.
Well like I said I can't vouch for the accuracy. Guess I'll do more research on this subject when I have time.I'm sure there must be some attachments and detachments seems to happen to every army in every war.

EDITED TO ADD: If you look at the footnotes they go into a bit more detail.

PS. Boks are hardly playing up to their status, are they? I shall be wearing my pre-rainbow nation, pre-protea jersey with pride but lowered expectations this Saturday despite the expected 38C expected here. What do you think of that little Lambie starting? .
No they're not but as everyone knows P Divvy and ******** Muir are complete mongs which doesn't help things. I wouldn't have moved Frans Steyn from fullback if at all possible but Butch James is also injured so I guess we didn't have much of a choice. At least Habana isn't playing he's definitely passed his sell-by date.As is John Smit. Ridiculous when we have great guys like Bismarck and Francois Hougaard on the bench.
 
#9
That's sort of what the Battlefield Surveillance Brigade (BfSB) was meant to achieve - provision of ISTAR capability to meet the Corp/Div Comds PIRs. There are some good aspects to the concept - ground recce (Humvee RSTA), UAV, SIGINT and HUMINT capability all under one roof - but the overall effect is of moving from a heavy 'college jock' of an ACR to the lighter 'techno-nerd' of BfSB is that the Div/Corps Comd no longer has a force capable of screening of guarding his formation (unless he tasks a BCT, or subordinate unit, which will be unfamiliar with operaing in such a role), or even conducting zone/area reconnaissance in all but the most permissive environments.
At the risk of telling grandmother how to suck eggs, this broad label ISTAR (and derivatives) has created more harm than good in the understanding of the various roles and how best to deal with them. Surveillance is not reconnaissance etc etc.

Now, I didn't feel the single (heavy) ACR of the legacy structure (remember 2, 3 and 11 ACRs were quite different beasts) was really adequate for US Army doctrine or national interests at the time. I don't see how 3 regular, corps level 'SEARCH' brigades is an improvement. It seems to have jumped from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Personally, I think the broad thrust of the modular BCT concept was/is very solid. Just trying to work out whether real life has proven or disproven the concept so far.
 
#10
Hello, hello!!!

Seems the Goldman bricked it himself before I responded. How strange.
You didn't seem to care about my opinions and since I believe I'm the only American in the thread who's actually served in one of the new units decided to remove my post since you seem intent on belittling it. You want an Echo chamber, you've got it.
 
#11
No they're not but as everyone knows P Divvy and ******** Muir are complete mongs which doesn't help things. I wouldn't have moved Frans Steyn from fullback if at all possible but Butch James is also injured so I guess we didn't have much of a choice. At least Habana isn't playing he's definitely passed his sell-by date.As is John Smit. Ridiculous when we have great guys like Bismarck and Francois Hougaard on the bench.
Even though 'ballie' Smit is an ou troopie, it must be difficult working out whether he's a hooking prop or a propping hooker! Bring on the Kaiser! Remember Ballie Swart (effing WP again!!!), Jan Lock and Uli the Scmidt. Now that was a front row!
 
#12
You didn't seem to care about my opinions and since I believe I'm the only American in the thread who's actually served in one of the new units decided to remove my post since you seem intent on belittling it. You want an Echo chamber, you've got it.
You removed it before I'd posted, so please have the decency to explain your actions honestly and correctly if you wish to be taken seriously.

Now, as to 'echo', I'm keen to hear your experiences of how the modular BCT performed on operations compared to legacy formations - whether they accord with my perceptions and opinions or not. I'm just not interested in moaning and whinging about the impact on personal egos or other narrow community issues due to reroling of specific units. Or even whether light v heavy wins the top trumps awward. They may well have merit in another thread or another forum; just not central or even relevant to the discussion I'd like to encourage here.
 
#13
At the risk of telling grandmother how to suck eggs, this broad label ISTAR (and derivatives) has created more harm than good in the understanding of the various roles and how best to deal with them. Surveillance is not reconnaissance etc etc.

Now, I didn't feel the single (heavy) ACR of the legacy structure (remember 2, 3 and 11 ACRs were quite different beasts) was really adequate for US Army doctrine or national interests at the time. I don't see how 3 regular, corps level 'SEARCH' brigades is an improvement. It seems to have jumped from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Personally, I think the broad thrust of the modular BCT concept was/is very solid. Just trying to work out whether real life has proven or disproven the concept so far.
At the risk of getting lost in doctrinal verbage, I don't think we (and in that, I mean US/UK) really know what we want out of our FIND/UNDERSTAND capability. Ok, we know what we want - to know exactly what the terrain looks like, where the enemy sits within that, and what his intentions are - but, then what I really want new Porsche and Scarlett Johanson as a pet.

Take Telic 1/OIF - an unprecedented level of ISTAR capability - but at the tactical level, still not much more than a series of BG/Bde level brawls as we ran into, and proceeded to duff up, what was left of the Iraqi Army and a bunch of militia hiding in amongst the urban/human terrain that we had to secure. Something that commanders in Northwest Europe of 1944/45 would have been very familiar with, no doubt.

So at the end of the day, it seems a truism that commanders always seem to be short of combat power, and largely regard deliberate reconnaissance as irrelevant when they could be spending time, as Rommel said "plastering the enemy with fire". I think the COE might be an exception to this rule, in that in such an enduring campaign, ISTAR will take on more importance.

I tend to agree that the modular force is a reasonably good model - in as much we have yet to find anything better - but it has yet to stand to test of high intensity manouvre warfare.
 
#14
At the risk of getting lost in doctrinal verbage, I don't think we (and in that, I mean US/UK) really know what we want out of our FIND/UNDERSTAND capability. Ok, we know what we want - to know exactly what the terrain looks like, where the enemy sits within that, and what his intentions are - but, then what I really want new Porsche and Scarlett Johanson as a pet.

Take Telic 1/OIF - an unprecedented level of ISTAR capability - but at the tactical level, still not much more than a series of BG/Bde level brawls as we ran into, and proceeded to duff up, what was left of the Iraqi Army and a bunch of militia hiding in amongst the urban/human terrain that we had to secure. Something that commanders in Northwest Europe of 1944/45 would have been very familiar with, no doubt.

So at the end of the day, it seems a truism that commanders always seem to be short of combat power, and largely regard deliberate reconnaissance as irrelevant when they could be spending time, as Rommel said "plastering the enemy with fire". I think the COE might be an exception to this rule, in that in such an enduring campaign, ISTAR will take on more importance.

I tend to agree that the modular force is a reasonably good model - in as much we have yet to find anything better - but it has yet to stand to test of high intensity manouvre warfare.
I think it was you that pointed me to the LWC paper which argued that the ISTAR effort did very little to assist V Corps with the type, quantity and quality of intelligence that they needed at the tactical and operational level. In effect, each and every TF was its own recce screen as it was constantly moving to contact. What value was 3 ACR to the force? The authors of said paper argue that the top down-demand for incredibly high tempo was the single key reason for this. I suspect that driver managed to mask a number of other weaknesses in the structure.

But the broad thrust was that the legacy structure of tactical int gathering failed. But overall, against sub-standard opposition, the legacy system succeeded in achieving operational success.

Now, however important the light v heavy debate is in tactical int gathering, it doesn't really attack the core thrust of whether the modular BCT is working, and will continue to work, in a high intensity setting. Remember, 'high' does not necessarily equate to the enemy has massed ranks of tanks.
 
#15
I think it was you that pointed me to the LWC paper which argued that the ISTAR effort did very little to assist V Corps with the type, quantity and quality of intelligence that they needed at the tactical and operational level. In effect, each and every TF was its own recce screen as it was constantly moving to contact. What value was 3 ACR to the force? The authors of said paper argue that the top down-demand for incredibly high tempo was the single key reason for this. I suspect that driver managed to mask a number of other weaknesses in the structure.
3ACR did not participate in the initial warfighting phase of OIF, but if they had I imagine their role would have been more as a advanced/flank guard during the advance, or possibly as Corps mobile reserve.

But the broad thrust was that the legacy structure of tactical int gathering failed. But overall, against sub-standard opposition, the legacy system succeeded in achieving operational success.
Actually, the model for tactical int gathering at TF/Bde level was a relatively new one, based more on the 'light' RSTA concept of using the Humvee as a Scout. In most cases the commanders found that 'recce by stealth' meant 'recce by death', and chose to keep those units safe in the rear.

Now, however important the light v heavy debate is in tactical int gathering, it doesn't really attack the core thrust of whether the modular BCT is working, and will continue to work, in a high intensity setting. Remember, 'high' does not necessarily equate to the enemy has massed ranks of tanks.
I think this is an example of a situation in which we might ask the question "how much top-down support and direction does a Bde really need?". Without adequate high-level assets, there is a danger that each BCT will act so independantly as to leave the Div/Corps commander unable to paint a picture and concentrate his forces without conducting those individual advances-to-contact, at the risk of becoming fixed. The counter-arguement to this is that if BCTs are to do the fighting, then they should be resourced and left to their own devices. In Normandy, Army and Corps level planning was often very rigid, and the best successes came when Divisions (such as the 11th Armd during Bluecoat) were able to plan and execute in a form of mission command - and back then, brigades weren't really a manouevre formation, so perhaps Bde is the new Div? ;-)
 
#16
3ACR did not participate in the initial warfighting phase of OIF,
Exactly!

but if they had I imagine their role would have been more as a advanced/flank guard during the advance, or possibly as Corps mobile reserve.
Look at what 3/7 Cav was doing during that phase of the operation. Sure it was in the vanguard of the desert gallop to Najaf. But from then on, was employed for the most part as another armoured TF within 3ID tasked no differently from the other 9 TFs.

Actually, the model for tactical int gathering at TF/Bde level was a relatively new one, based more on the 'light' RSTA concept of using the Humvee as a Scout. In most cases the commanders found that 'recce by stealth' meant 'recce by death', and chose to keep those units safe in the rear.
Given that the US has only moved from XX to X as the primary deployable C2 unit in the last decade, there was no need for significant X level int gathering forces: heavy or light. The XX had its heavy Cav sqn, and then 2 & 3 ACRs sat above them as corps/theatre assets. Of course, all that has changed.

On the otherhand we spent far too long with one foot in each camp. Xs were the primary deployable force due to our lack of scale to deploy XX for any length of time. And yet, due to the imbalance of 'Front Line First" et al, scarce support units had to be pulled down from XX or theatre level formations. Much of that has now been rectified, but it took over a decade of unrealistic and inefficiant force generation before the light was seen. In respect of int gathering, FR regiments existed at XX level with nothing at X level, not because it was doctrinally sound, but because of the need to retain RAC cap badges, traditions and professional officer command slots.

I think this is an example of a situation in which we might ask the question "how much top-down support and direction does a Bde really need?". Without adequate high-level assets, there is a danger that each BCT will act so independantly as to leave the Div/Corps commander unable to paint a picture and concentrate his forces without conducting those individual advances-to-contact, at the risk of becoming fixed. The counter-arguement to this is that if BCTs are to do the fighting, then they should be resourced and left to their own devices. In Normandy, Army and Corps level planning was often very rigid, and the best successes came when Divisions (such as the 11th Armd during Bluecoat) were able to plan and execute in a form of mission command - and back then, brigades weren't really a manouevre formation,
The answer is actually very simple. Division of responsibility should be geographically defined.

It only becomes difficult when the divisions of responsibility are cap badge oriented rather than task/geography oriented. Hence why it is such a mess in the UK.

so perhaps Bde is the new Div? ;-)
errr! That's exactly how it has been for the UK since 1991 - despite the imbalance in the structure to make it work efficiently and properly. And, for the US Army, since 'Transformation' gave them the modular brigade.
 
#17
Exactly!



Look at what 3/7 Cav was doing during that phase of the operation. Sure it was in the vanguard of the desert gallop to Najaf. But from then on, was employed for the most part as another armoured TF within 3ID tasked no differently from the other 9 TFs.



Given that the US has only moved from XX to X as the primary deployable C2 unit in the last decade, there was no need for significant X level int gathering forces: heavy or light. The XX had its heavy Cav sqn, and then 2 & 3 ACRs sat above them as corps/theatre assets. Of course, all that has changed.

Without going into all your points in detail, I would recommend reading the following paper - it gives a nice (although possibly biased) overview of the role of the ACR, and how modularity has worked out in practice:
http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf&AD=ADA471143
3 ACR should have deployed to theatre, but it was bumped of the priority list to make way for (amongst others) 4ID - who ironically (because of the no-go from Turkey) did not arrive in time either. Some would argue that it wasn't needed - others would say that is only because the opposition was such a shambles.

3-7 did a good job during the drive to Bagdad, although as we agree, they operated more as an independant guard force ahead of 3ID. Is the fact that they did so, then transitioned to just being another TF really such a bad thing?

Where things really came unstuck was a bde/TF level - which is critical, as that is really where the fighting is won or lost. The Scout troops and platoons respectively just couldn't survive or keep pace with the rate of advance, resulting in the series of advance to contacts we discussed.

In fact, there is an arguement that ground-based tactical ISTAR has very rarely been proven in high intensity manouevre warfare (how often did Corps Armoured Car assets do anything really useful in WW2?), and that time and resources would be better spent in giving the fighting elements at BG and Bde level more things to fight with, and letting them do it quicker. Perhaps greater use of UAV and covert long-range surveillance at lower echelons might have helped?

I am a great believer in warfare finding its own 'form', and I think sometimes we are too keen to try and force a doctrinal template on a situation which at best is organised chaos. If success can be achieved through a series of small-unit actions - pressing the enemy constantly across the battlespace, and able to act independantly - who are we to claim doctrinal imperfection? Sure, like I said, every commander would love to know more about the situation - but then we'd also like to win, and the enemy has a thing or two to say about that too!


On the otherhand we spent far too long with one foot in each camp. Xs were the primary deployable force due to our lack of scale to deploy XX for any length of time. And yet, due to the imbalance of 'Front Line First" et al, scarce support units had to be pulled down from XX or theatre level formations. Much of that has now been rectified, but it took over a decade of unrealistic and inefficiant force generation before the light was seen. In respect of int gathering, FR regiments existed at XX level with nothing at X level, not because it was doctrinally sound, but because of the need to retain RAC cap badges, traditions and professional officer command slots.
I think you and I are largely in agreement on this.



So to summarise my ramblings, I think the one thing the Modular Army is really lacking is not necessarily reconnaissance, but units capable of carrying our security (advanced/flank guard, screen etc) missions at Div level or above - unless that formation commander assigns a BCT that role (proposed in the paper above), or extrats a TF for that purpose.

Also edited to add: you might also find this interesting:

www.cgsc.edu/carl/download/csipubs/cameron_fight.pdf
 
#18
Thank you Gassing_Badgers for those two links. I've only had a quick scan of them so far but will give them the time they deserve in the coming days. I'm sure I've read one of them before, but need to revisit it.

Where things really came unstuck was a bde/TF level - which is critical, as that is really where the fighting is won or lost. The Scout troops and platoons respectively just couldn't survive or keep pace with the rate of advance, resulting in the series of advance to contacts we discussed.
Regarding the heavy v light recce argument, I take a bit of a different view to you on this. If your heavy recce is there primarily to LOCATE the enemy by deliberately bumbing into them - whilst retaining the firepower and protection to survive the contact - why not just plonk your leading HBCT in that role?

As regards to the scout/recce 'failure' or lack of ability due to the movement tempo, I have to broadly disagree with many of the assumptions of that LWC paper and elsewhere. Although int collection is of course time critical, ground gathered int is predicated upon separating distance. If the main body is constantly moving forward, the advanced element just needs to maintain the same separation. The speed of movement is almost irrelevant.

What I saw playout with VCorps / 3ID in Iraq was a recognition of my first point. When we bump into the enemy, already located by strategic intelligence, hit them straight off with a brigade of armour instead of bumping into them and giving them forewarning.

In my opinion the 'failures' of the int process were more based on expectation and dissemination than gathering. Back to the LWC paper, one report explains how 3/7 Cav were chasing camels detected by JTIDS, another explains he had zero forwarning of 3 mech brigades bearing down on his position!!!! Yet another indicates the very best intel came from interrogation of PoWs.

In fact, there is an arguement that ground-based tactical ISTAR has very rarely been proven in high intensity manouevre warfare (how often did Corps Armoured Car assets do anything really useful in WW2?), and that time and resources would be better spent in giving the fighting elements at BG and Bde level more things to fight with, and letting them do it quicker. Perhaps greater use of UAV and covert long-range surveillance at lower echelons might have helped?
I think the ability of tactical ground-based ISTAR to be 'successful' is highly related to situation and environment. One particular unit can be hugely effective in one scenario and a waste of time in another. Throughout WW2 there was constant tinkering (British) with div/corps/theatre ISTAR assets doctrinally and practically. They clearly never was a DS answer which frankly should not come as a surprise.

For example: 11H in decrepit armoured cars during the early stages of the Western Desert campaign was one of the key enablers to success over the Italians. They were operating in the role of a XXX level asset. Later, doing the same job, but reporting to 7 Armd Div, they achieved similar success as did other similarly roled AC units (KDG, 4 SA ACR etc etc). However, during Op Crusader, all three of these were allocated to individual armoured brigades (4, 7 & 22) within 7 Armd Div, in a much narrower role, and the outcome of the battle was very close to a disaster not least of due to lack of forward knowledge of depth Axis dispositions and movement.

In Italy and North Western Europe, the terrain and scenario were completely different and the formation recce role was never really pinned down. By the latter stages, armoured divs had resorted to combining their armd recce btn with the 'spare' motor btn to form a fourth (square) all arms BG. Again, coming back to my initial comment of using heavy forces to bump the location of the enemy. Why do you need a specialist bumper?

It's an interesting read of the fag-packet 'doctrine' provided to BEF commanders on how the theater level 12L (Morris armoured car) role fitted with the corps level light tank (Mk.VI)/bren carrier recce formations were to be used (5DG, 13/18H, 15/19H etc etc). It's best not to factor in how the motorcycle or scout car (Daimler) battalions were to operate within some division/brigade structures!!!!!!


I am a great believer in warfare finding its own 'form', and I think sometimes we are too keen to try and force a doctrinal template on a situation which at best is organised chaos. If success can be achieved through a series of small-unit actions - pressing the enemy constantly across the battlespace, and able to act independantly - who are we to claim doctrinal imperfection? Sure, like I said, every commander would love to know more about the situation - but then we'd also like to win, and the enemy has a thing or two to say about that too!
Indeed.

So to summarise my ramblings, I think the one thing the Modular Army is really lacking is not necessarily reconnaissance, but units capable of carrying our security (advanced/flank guard, screen etc) missions at Div level or above - unless that formation commander assigns a BCT that role (proposed in the paper above), or extrats a TF for that purpose.
Again, I see it a bit differently. A 'fighting' formation such as an infantry or armoured brigade/division should be able to protect itself. I mean, do we really need to add another fighting sub-unit into a given orbat just to provide 'security' to teeth arms? If so, surely that additional unit will also require even more additional 'security' etc etc etc. Higher, and more rearward formations and structures, may require a bit of 'security' and 'protection' whilst they are going about their own roles - but since all troops are soldiers first, they should be able to look after their own personal space. However, in order to do their 'own' jobs to max efficiency, maybe a platoon or company of pioneers should be attached to HQ formations. I really don't see the effectiveness in detailing highly skilled infanteers or armour for this task.
 
#19
Gassing_Badgers,

Maybe you've seen these before. If not, sit down with a strong drink, put the coffee pot on ready for later, and read through these.



We 'invent' the tank, and put it into operational use. We then have 20 years to develop doctrine and tactics.

But what ho! Make it up on the back of a packet of Woodbines and send it off to commanders in the field at the last minute.

To cap it all, not having our own doctrine to distribute, these notes also introduced the French doctrine on armoured warfare which was thus distributed to commanders. They didn't even bother to translate it and sent it out in French!



What a way to fight a war against Guderain!!!!

PS. These are digital pics of genuine National Archive records available at Kew. I found them on the net and thanks go to the kind sole who took the time to find them at Kew and make them available.
 
#20
(lots of good stuff that I don't need to waste bandwidth by reproducing)
The Role of Advanced Guard, Recce in Force, etc

You are correct that the above generally conforms to a type of 'bumper' mission, which does not necessarily require specialist (but maybe perhaps skilled) units, but to that I would also add the ability to operate somewhat independently ahead of the main body, acting on initiative to exploit the situation. As well as 'bumping' the enemy, the advance guard - at least in Soviet doctrine - is there to preserve the main body's ability to manouevre relatively unmolested. To my mind this sounds like a valid arguement, as a criticism levelled at commanders at all levels is that they often allow all (or at least the majority) there forces to become directly engaged in the battle early.

So to my mind, there is a training issue here - if 'normal' combat units are to be given that role, they need to be comfortable with operating well ahead of their main body for extended periods, and very comfortable with acting on initiative. A not insurmountable issue, which might be solved by training a few subordinate units to conduct these missions (such as is the case of pioneer platoons) in addition to their usual role.

The second issue is logistical. The ACR had a big enough logistical slice to enable it to operate truly independantly, plugging in direct to theatre-level logistic plan. The BCT by comparison does contain a logistic element, but still requires the services of a Sustainment Brigade at div level (even if in the unlikely event that the BCT is on its lonesome). Thus if the lead HBCT were to be assigned the type of security or 'economy of force' operation assigned to an ACR, it would require augmentation to its logistic assets.

Recce Tempo
Now you mention it, I don't think I have seen that LWC paper - do you think you could forward it on to me?

I can see where they're coming from on this. If you assign a mission to a recce unit that is trained and equipped to conduct 'recce by stealth', its rate of advance across many types of terrain can be minimal (in some high-threat, poor terrain cases, not much more than walking pace) - even before you get to the template of NAIs and PIRs set by higher. Even allowing for a considerable separation, the main body will either catch them up, or spend some time sat on its arse doing nothing. Some might say that recce uses the time the main body is engaged in fighting to bypass and press on - I would argue that if you can get your recce platform (which will soon be very similar to our current IFV) past on a bypass that easily, why wouldn't you just flank with your main body?

Security
I absolutely agree - a Bde or Div ought to be able to manage its own security. We have only ended up with recce doing these tasks because:
a)In the past, they were the only element with the right combination of firepower, protection and mobility
b)Higher commander needed to find something useful for them do!

This may require some extra training (as in my first heading) to conduct such missions, but its not beyond the wit of most soldiers.

Wherefore Recce?

Personally, I think we have become doctrinal fixed in our approach to 'FIND'. We need to acknowledge there are a whole number of ways to do it (after all, isn't an advance to contact a form of 'FIND'?), and not dedicate a large proportion of our combat power to a particular way of doing it (as I think we are doing).
In short (and because my typing is keeping my wife awake), I see the following for 'specialist' recce/ISTAR/whatever:

1) Better integration of UAV, SIGINT etc
2) Very light forces, able to operate covertly ahead of the fighting, able to insert/infiltrate by a variety of means, and not locked into the tactical handling of a fighting brigade.
3) Not confused by a whole bunch of other jobs that could be done more efficiently elsewhere



(I know I'm going off at a tangent on recce, but hopefully you will find some more general stuff on the abilities of BCTs in the above!)



Edited to add: just sent you a PM!
 

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