US Army experience of 'smaller' modular brigades. Discuss

Discussion in 'The Intelligence Cell' started by whitecity, Sep 15, 2011.

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  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.

  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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

    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. 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. 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. 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 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 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. 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. 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.

    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.

    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? ;-)