A high end conventional land warfare doctrine (II)

To recollect, part I divided the theatre of land warfare into four successive areas:
  1. "rear" (blue) areas (say, Western Poland)
  2. militia-monitored areas with more or less harassment of invaders (say, Northeastern/Eastern Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia)
  3. "red" areas with Fernspäher surveillance at least at points of interest
  4. "red" areas with only satellite surveillance
Now it's about time to present the role for the heavier forces.
The "rear" areas would see supplies being moved by civilian logistics contractors with civilian vehicles. Civilian police would police the roads to manage refugee streams and try to keep the military traffic flowing. Rail bridges are certainly useless, and road bridges might be busted and replaced by pontoon bridging. Those pontoon bridges would have prioritization of traffic according to the needs of the war effort and would be defended by classic air defences and anti-ballistic missile point defences.

The militia-observed areas would be the terrain for mechanised brigade combat as NATO usually envisages it, but with an important distinction: Mechanised manoeuvre elements of about company size might operate both within and beyond the effective radius of the brigade support umbrella. 
The company-sized mechanised manoeuvre elements outside (too far forward of) the brigade support umbrella would be called "heavy skirmishers" and have a very much changed (skirmishing) mindset and repertoire. They would focus on the line of sight fight and act more as encircling, harassing, delaying and armoured recce force; Americans and military historians might term them "light cavalry". Their historical precedents do indeed reach back almost 2,000 years to Romano-Parthian wars, when light Parthian horse-archers caused great trouble to the by comparison sluggish Romans. The firefights of such heavy skirmishers would preferably hit non-combat troops hard, and the contacts with combat troops would be short but fierce in the best of NATO's ambushing delaying action tactic tradition.

These heavy skirmishers would turn opposing forces' battalion battlegroups and larger formations into constricted moving pockets. They're shaping the battlefield BEFORE our forces would be committed into decisive action in brigade(s) vs. brigade clashes. The intent is to disadvantage the invading opposing force to the point that its defeat in an eventual clash (preferably our pincer attack) with our formations of equal level is ensured before it happens. 

You're mistaken if this sounds defensive to you. The zone in which heavy skirmishers operate could be pushed forward, the heavy skirmisher forces would engulf then "defending" hostile brigades (or battlegroups) and turn them into (moving) pockets. This is possible becuase of an assumption that there's no defended front-line due to a low forces to area ratio.
The brigade-level support groups and their support umbrella could be pushed forward likewise. Opposing forces subjected to this treatment risk destruction if they advance too far or persist for too long, and their superiors would be tempted to order their withdrawal. 
At this point the land campaign could resemble the early 18th century manoeuvre of professional European armies which attempted to outmanoeuvre each other and capture ground (even fortresses) without decisive battle. You always need to still be capable of succeeding in pitched battle, and never fully trust the compelling effect of manoeuvre, of course.
You need much depth for such a doctrine, and "must-defend" locations within this depth (say, Warsaw) need to have rather stiff local defences to make this doctrine politically feasible.

The heavy skirmishers and some even farther forward operating raiders (previously described as armoured recce-ish) would also affect the air war. Helicopter forward operating bases and even air force airbases would not be safe from them, and the organic high effective ceiling air defence of the raider companies (or rather their support group) would endanger opposing airpower in areas it would otherwise deem safe (such as close to its airbases, or within their own area air defence range). 
The raiders would be a diversion and raiding/sabotaging, rarely ambushing force. Historical precedents include the Long Range Desert Group. It would use 14.5 mm B-32 bullet-proofed 6x6 motor vehicles with non-conspicuous tire profiles. The French wheeled AFV concepts come the closest to what I envisage. The main gun on most vehicles should be somewhat air target-capable, ranging from 40 mm CT up to 76 mm with 30+ rpm. The latter would render a dedicated self-propelled howitzer at raider company level unnecessary, as it could double as indirect fires weapon (it would rather lack multispectral smoke munitions, though). The raider platoons need some dismount strength to inspect bridges, clear buildings and so on, and these dismounts should be able to dismount quickly and get back into the vehicles quickly as well. Dismounting the AFV gunners or commanders does not suffice.

Finally, the support umbrella radius particularly of the brigade needs to be pointed out as an important input variable: These support umbrellas provide the light and heavy skirmishers with support (including artillery fires), and to a small degree also the Fernspäher and raiders (quasi-ballistic PGM range ~ 500 km). The ratio of forces to theatre of war area and the effective radius of the support umbrella (it would be about 40...80 km regardless of whether we use brigades or divisions) leads to my preference for brigades over divisions. We (NATO, EU) wouldn't have enough divisional-level umbrellas in the war zone in the first 14 days of a surprising war, but we could have enough equally-large brigade-level umbrellas in place.

The mobility and endurance of the vehicles used in the heavy skirmisher units as well as corps command's opinion on how much they'd need to move around would define the maximum reach of the heavy skirmishing forward of the brigade support groups and their supply drop-off points. The depth might be disappointing with today's AFVs. We might have 30...40 km ordinary under-umbrella manoeuvring plus maybe only 20...60 km of additional heavy skirmishing depth while rather 100...200 km of the latter would be desirable for full effect. Tanks with more compact main weapon munitions* and much more fuel for greater de facto endurance (enough for four days) would be preferable. An alternative is to use multicopter drones for resupply (120...150 kg payload), which would be another support umbrella capability. Their mission radius would likely be limited to dozens of km, so they wouldn't extend the skirmishing depth very much. This also shows why the heavy skirmishers need much anti-drone day & night ability even without autonomous killer drones coming into play; it could be essential for the encirclement effect.




*: I don't think going for 130 mm tank guns is a good idea. It's single-mindedly focused on APFSDS power. The aforementioned versatile 76 mm quick fire option would suffice for most purposes, and could be complemented by rocket launch tubes compatible with both HVM (a CKEM-like 130 mm APFSDS substitute) and powerful blast rockets (not FAE/thermobaric, for these would cover the minimum range of the HVM for AT purposes and FAE/thermobaric is unsuitable for this). 75 mm was understood to be the smallest highly effective HE calibre in WW2, and today's HE shells and fuzes are better. This is not just about hardware; it's about one's idea about what tanks are meant for.


  1. How do such skirmishers work, does every NATO/EU country have some or would a specialisation of countries for specific tasks work? How would these skirmishers replace attrition if the opponent symmetrically counters them?

    1. I was thinking mostly about Germany and maybe the Benelux countries organising their brigades for this style. The same countries and the French could use the raider style, too.

      The whole heavy skirmishing thing only works until there's a high ratio of troops to terrain. So skirmishing is -insofar as it concerns NATO/EU- only for the first few weeks of hot conflict.

      A symmetric counter heavy skirmishers vs. heavy skirmishers would cause problems for the invader, as he faces the light skirmisher militia, too. Invader hvy skr would be reported and harassed by the militia, even attacked in bivouac and ambushed.

      Furthermore, the skirmishing is not a good fit for Russian Army culture (the way how their junior leadership works).

    2. What cultural traits produce good skirmishers. I'm still of the opinion that a very bad situation can develop, where Europe can possibly face more than just Russia. Would for example Mongolia, Pakistan or China be capable to provide such skirmishers?

    3. What matters is good leadership at platoon or company level and good-enough NCOs to keep the morale and discipline up.
      The Russian army has never been known for high independence and initiative of platoon or company leaders.
      I have absolutely no idea about Pakistan's or China's armies in this regard. The PLA would have the mindset to use a militia like I described, their army doctrine was quite similar until the 1979 embarrassment.

    4. The Russian, Chinese and Pakistani armies are all professional forces now with a high number of "special" units in case of Russia that might operate from run off the mill units. Much data we have on Russia and China are from the era of conscription, which are units that probably operated differently from the professionals. In case of Russia, there are also numerous reservists and in case of China there's a light form of conscription coupled with the higher education system. Could a higher saturation with forces and some professional specialists compensate for deficiencies in low level leadership?

    5. The Russians have but two or three divisions worth for the first week of a Baltic conflict, and maybe one more for the second week (if they leave the Caucasus region weak).
      I'm concerned with how to handle such forces for a few weeks, as NATO and EU are overwhelmingly powerful after two to four weeks. It's all about the denying of coup de main/fait accompli.
      There's simply no very different scenario that would justify annual 10-figure military expenses in Germany.

      A Russian or Chinese militia wouldn't concern me, as a lightly equipped militia is near-useless for aggressions. The Chinese learned this in 1979.

    6. In a conventional conflict, the russian doctrine still is the operation in depth, in which not so dissimilar concepts (raiders) to yours are applied, special units and previously installed agents, attacks and sabotage as well as cyber warfare work deeper into enemy space and another characteristic is simultaneity. Of course, especially in the russian army there is a considerable difference between theory and actual practical ability, but to deny the russians the ability to skirmish is a dangerous misjudgment, both in view of their doctrine and their practical real actions in the wars of the last few years. There is no doubt that one should not overestimate the Russians, but one should not underestimate them either. Eu troops will not be able to quickly and completely defeat unmarked russian units in the baltic states (there is a complete lack of the necessary military culture for this) - nor would we be able to win a battle for the baltic region with eu troops actually because facts would be created there before the eu is able to exploit its superiority which it possesses as a whole (you wrote the same, therefore your diffent concept). In principle, the war would be over before the eu has moved enough to actually wage it. Because of the nuclear issue, any further escalation of the war would then be out of the question.

      Your concept would therefore require a certain presence of appropriately structured eu troops which are appropriately deployed. You write that yourself - and with the strategic right aim to prevent the decision until the eu gets going. In my estimation, however, that will never be the case, the necessary structures, associations and equipment will never be in the right place. And even if (pure theory), you would be overwhelmed with the speed of events as a reacting person there. The war space is simply too small, the speed too high. In the limited war space there and due to the geographic orientation, the russians simply have too many geostrategic advantages for the eu to be able to compensate for this - imo even with your doctrine as you described it here.

      We would loose the race to the swift even with your concept here mainly because of geostrategic reasons. My thesis is therefore: The baltics cannot be defended in a conventional military way against an serious russian attack.

    7. That "military culture" bollocks of yours is luckily just your worthless opinion.

      Humans flip a switch when they're at war, and then many of us become killers. Most killing is nowadays done without seeing the targets as humans, so it's particularly easy. Supposedly non-Russian military invaders in the Baltics would be suicidal. NATO would rather destroy all of Narva than allow any salami slicing invasion. The mental mobilization would take less than 48 hrs of propaganda.

    8. There's at least one case where that switch was discussed, but then not used, the Moriori of New Zealand. It's rare, but non-military cultures are possible, the default is some kind of military culture, albeit some stress the military aspect more than others.

    9. SO:

      Your german arrogance and hubris hits you right out of your text. Every fourth inhabitant of estonia is russian, every third inhabitant of latvia and also in lithuania it is still a lot. If you seriously claim that nato which has not even come to terms with the ridiculous taliban and has even suffered losses against them, could proceed against russian special forces operating out of these minorities in such a way that the enemy is quickly and completely destroyed, do you live in a fantasy world. And it's full of elves and unicorns if you think that 48 hours of mental mobilization would be enough to get the people of europe to destroy narwa just so that it doesn't fall into the hands of the russians. You are so far from reality that it hurts.

      But even in your pacifist germany no one will sacrifice himself or risk the destruction of germany for estland. Therefore the military alliance is worthless here.

    10. The Taleban were never a real issue to the West. The over-aggressive Neocons went there and some other politicians decided to follow that stupid military nonsense adventure 99% for sake of strengthening the NATO alliance (which is also related to why the Aussies pulled out so soon and others didn't).

      The fact that we were involved for absolutely no good reason in Afghanistan for 20 years emphasises how important keeping together the Western unity / alliance is to politicians.

      The Afghanistan bollocks is actually an argument FOR expecting a massive, rapid and highly destructive reaction to an aggression in the Baltic.

      Military and foreign policy isn't about this alpha/beta male-ish talk. It's about much more, and historical analogies show that completely harmless theatre dancers can and were turned into killers, that usually peaceful and consensus-minded politicians can turn into aggressive warmongers in no time.
      Meanwhile, societies with the most "warrior" ethos stuff were always smashed by societies that industrialised warfare.

      BTW, I'd even consider it possible that the Americans would wipe out Narva within 24 hrs with air strikes if it's occupied. There's absolutely zero incentive towards hesitancy in such a salami slicing aggression while rapid total destruction basically guarantees a strategic success.

  2. How do you envision the threat of artillery in these forward low density areas?

    I'm wondering how feasible it is to infiltrate many dispersed, high endurance self-propelled artillery batteries into the low force density areas just as the line of sight armored companies do.

    1. Also curious if you have any thoughts on the U.S. Army's 'Advanced Combat Engine'?

      If that project works out I'm wondering about a sub-40 ton armored vehicle with a massive fuel capacity due to the compact engine, rubber band tracks, and the notional 75mm cannon you've written about. Revolutionary in so many ways.

    2. Indirect fires can hit you within about two minutes of you being spotted, with the most advanced tech and at ordinary distances even one minute. The big question is whether the radio links and everything else along the chain function as intended.

      The ACE is just another high density tank engine. It frees up a bit of internal volume, but so did the EuroPowerpack decades ago, and armies refused to exploit this by upgrading their AFVs.

      40 tons is beyond the limit for rubber bandtracks (rule of thumb: 30 t). It may be able to function, but is likely well outside the comfort zone of the tech.

  3. Just give up on the turret on ifv. The gun is cheap ,the turret is not

    1. You're in the totally wrong topic.