Transitions, whether in professional sports or business, are critical to get right. Those who get them right reap the benefits of championships or market share; those who do not, become easy wins, lose market share, or simply cease to exist (such as Kodak or Blockbuster). Transitions for militaries are no different. Between the world wars, Germany developed its blitzkrieg (“lightning warfare”) doctrine while the French developed the Maginot Line. Thus, as the US Army finds itself in transition after nearly 20 years of fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it must get it right.
This is not the Army’s first major transition. Following the Vietnam War, the Army’s conceptual focus transitioned from counterinsurgency to the employment of new, high-tech armor integrated with state-of-the-art air power to confront the Soviet Union. This new concept, called AirLand Battle, arrived from a wholesale transformation of the Army’s doctrine, organization, training, material, leadership, personnel, and facilities. Today, after decades focused on counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency, the Army is transitioning to another battlefield concept known as multi-domain operations. This concept envisions the simultaneous employment of army, navy, air force, cyber, and space forces to compete with, and if necessary, defeat Russia or China in armed conflict.
Read the full article at War on the Rocks.
Col. Liam Collins, US Army retired, is the former director of the Modern War Institute at West Point. As a career Special Forces officer, he conducted multiple combat deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq as well as operational deployments to Bosnia, Africa, and South America. He holds a doctorate from Princeton University.
Capt. Harrison “Brandon” Morgan is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Modern War Institute at West Point. He is the commander of Attack Company, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, currently deployed as part of a rotational armored brigade to the Republic of Korea. Previously, he deployed as the 1st Infantry Division’s Atlantic Resolve liaison to the Republic of Lithuania and as an infantry weapons platoon leader in the 82nd Airborne Division during Operation Inherent Resolve, Iraq.
The views expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense.
Image credit: Patrick Albright, US Army
The lessons learned from WW2 to Syria have been the same—"Close in with the enemy and engage in CQB to eliminate the threat."
The problem with this lesson is the same…if the unit is pinned under heavy fire and can't maneuver, then armor, artillery, or Close Air Support is needed to break the stalemate.
Now UAVs and UGVs can close with the enemy and engage without loss of Blue Force lives which would have been very helpful for firebases under attack in Afghanistan than soldiers just shooting at the trees or the surrounding mountains. If done properly, robots can close in with the enemy and attack without risking soldiers' lives. If disabled, robots can self-destruct if needed, hopefully eliminating the threat. Therefore, there needs to be a lot of cheap and expendable vehicles to perform CQB, but not so advanced that any disabled vehicles will be stripped of precious AI autonomous technology. Should they be rigged for self-destruction and taking some of the curious salvaging enemy with them? That is a debate I will leave to the U.S. Military, but I will say that precious U.S. Tech is often coveted so "Mission Impossible Self-Destruct sequence" isn't unheard of as long as it cannot denote in Friendly Forces' bases.
The need to employ cheap vehicles with more firepower and ammo than a small arms squad has always been needed as seen in Vietnam MOUT where the VC or NVA wounded GIs in the open and pinned the remaining down, leaving the wounded in the streets with the other soldiers cowering and no one dare risk a rescue of the wounded. Drones and RCVs can finally break through and engage to rescue, so FINALLY after 45 years, this stalemate pinned problem might finally be solved. Send UGVs to attack the treeline; send UGVs to attack the sniper; send UGVs to scout ahead; send robots to attack the bunker or tunnel; send UGVs to rescue the wounded.
But in an environment with jamming, cyber-hacking, spoofing, and EMP, will all these cheap robots work? The DoD has to thoroughly test this, and perhaps fiber optic cables are still needed as a safety tether to a drone mothership just in case of supreme jamming.