2008/03/01

Swarms & dispersed operations

A couple of years go - when the military communities were not occupied with COIN yet - we had some concepts and experiments that envisaged the dispersed use of small troops to cover a large area as forward observers. They should use stealth (that was still a credible idea then) and be the eyes on the ground for air and artillery strikes. LRRPs basically. At the same time swarming - the unconventional (self-) coordination of many small elements for a common purpose - was almost fashionable as an idea.

Well, the ideas were not really transferred into practice, but they did apparently shape our thinking about conventional war to some degree.
The FCS program, for example, is still not oriented at brutal grinding force-on-force or breakthrough battles. It's rather oriented at careful use of seeing but unseen manned systems supported by unmanned systems and again effective indirect fires.

I was always interested in all such concepts and thought a lot about those.
My conclusion is that certain strengths like stealth have a very varying usefulness - their usefulness depends on the tactical situation and mission.
Critics of FCS, stealth and the like claim that those approaches will fail in this or that situation. They are right. But what about not employing these concepts in such unfavorable situations if possible?

My idea is to have very different ground forces working together. The German army of WW2 was composed of very different units; tank forces, motorized forces, light infantry, infantry and lower quality infantry units.
Each such part of the army fulfilled its job, and it wasn't necessary to have an all-Panzer Division army at all. That's why the obvious shortages of a Panzer Regiment were not a problem for the army; combined arms for the win.

I believe we should have a heavy force as brutal striking force. Such heavy combat teams should be able to execute two-pronged attacks with superior local force and a quick reserve.

They should operate in a skirmisher-saturated battlefield. The skirmishers should resemble the proposed high-tech forces; employing stealth and acting as forward observers. In addition to that they should be proficient in delaying; ambushing with fire-and-forget anti-tank weapons and creating lightly defended obstacles should be standard capabilities.

Finally there should be strong reserve infantry forces (conscripts) to control the very closed terrain of mountainous, urban and wooded regions. I doubt that tank forces are useful against a modern and competent opponent in such terrain, so I don't consider front-line armored vehicles as necessary for this infantry force. Artillery and artillery-protected support vehicles (commercial truck-based APC and specialized versions) should be enough.

This, of course, is very different from the perfect force for an expeditionary conventional war of a COIN war.
Again I fear that our pre-occupation with unnecessary military missions makes our force ill-prepared for their real, legitimate reason of existence; to defend our sovereignty (AT HOME).

Sven Ortmann

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