Reappraisal of U.S.Army brigades

Back in 2016 I wrote negatively about U.S.Army brigades, pointing out certain cornerstone equipment deficiencies. 
This requires a makeover in light of what we learned from the Russo-Ukrainian War so far.
Hardware: Tube Artillery
It turned out that maybe extreme range with dumb rounds is maybe not so important as the improved accuracy and dispersion of post-Cold War tube artillery. Some M777s were destroyed by counter-artillery fires in Ukraine, but so were many (tracked) self-propelled guns as well. I still dislike the M777 thoroughly, but towed 155 mm L/39 now looks more like an acceptable budget solution for tube artillery (although M777 is not cheap because of weight reduction efforts) than like something near-useless.

Hardware: Short range AT

I stick with what I wrote albeit the lessons in the next category greatly reduce the issue in this one.

Hardware: Long-range AT

So it turned out that the Soviets were able to counter Western ATGM generations within 10...1.5 years (see ERA, Shtora, Drozd countering the SACLOS ATGM generation), but the Russians cannot do the same in 25 years or more (Javelin is from mid-90's, its concept was public knowledge in the 80's). This was a huge surprise to me, I was sure they had an ace in the sleeve. Javelin still works because the Russians apparently suck at countering publicly known Western military technology.
The U.S.Army's anti-tank firepower is thus fine for now, even without main battle tanks present.

Structure: Heavy BCT
The text is still fine there.
Structure: Medium BCT
It turns out that the medium BCT is fairly well-suited to the kind of fighting in the Donbass, until its artillery is consumed. Infantry holds a line by manning and defending pickets/observation posts, artillery picks on targets with accurate fires. The Medium BCT may be a bit short on aerial observation platforms for artillery spotting. The bigger issue is the near-absence of air defences, which I mentioned briefly in the beginning of the 2016 blog post.

Structure: Light BCT

The text is still fine there.

So what should they do based on what we (I) know now?

155 mm L/52 on 8x8 or 6x6 would certainly be better than M777, a successor to Javelin should be introduced because the Russians are now extra motivated to protect their tanks against top attack,  and battlefield air defences need to be improved. The updated Avenger with AIM-9X* and NASAMS 3 with AMRAAM-ER would be fine, but additionally they (and we) need an answer to smaller drones. I suppose the answer is a mass-produced RCWS with suitable sensors (acoustic, thermal imager) to fight off small drones and refurbished old Stingers against cheap drones too high or far away for the RCWS' weapon (Americans would likely use 12.7x99mm in that RCWS).

And then find a concept for how to make mechanised mobile warfare work. Events in Ukraine have cast some doubt over whether the Cold War recipe for mechanised warfare can prevail against the defences it's going to face. The U.S.Army's armoured spearheads would not fare well against its own infantry's AT firepower, for example.

*: I understand that 100 kW lasers might do the trick as well, and be cheaper per kill. It's just suspicious that after all the interest in laser weapons there are still practically no destructive lasers being fielded.
P.S.: Keep in mind I only picked a few aspects then and thus now. The U.S. Army's issues are more diverse, including a disastrous personnel system, inexperienced junior officers, training issues down to basic soldiering skills and cumbersome/slow command.


  1. "The U.S.Army's armoured spearheads would not fare well against its own infantry's AT firepower, for example."

    in combination with

    "Javelin still works because the Russians apparently suck at countering publicly known Western military technology."

    is a contradiction in itself as it assumes that western countries are unable to defend against own ATGMs.

    1. A mere 336 active duty Abrams MBTs have or get Trophy (delivered in 2020, installed since 2021, I don't know how many kits are operational) and Bradleys get some more lightweight hard kill APS (Iron Fist IIRC, they had power supply issues with Bradley).

      Trophy enables in theory an intercept of diving Javelin missiles (25 years after the latter's introduction). In practice this likely means that in case of ripple fire of three Javelins per targeted Abrams from 500+ m distance the Abrams tank would be penetrated by at least one Javelin, maybe two. The explosion and impact of debris would likely result in a mission kill (CTIS and other equipment destroyed, powerpack damaged) even without a penetration.

      For 25 years the U.S.Army's Abrams tank was easily killed by a single shot of the U.S.Army's standard infantry AT weapon system, the Javelin. That's no contradiction. The German Leopard 1 wasn't capable of withstanding Cobra or Milan, either.
      Now it may take three or four shots instead of one.

    2. OK, as long as Russia does not have working ATGM the situation is in balance, but Russia and China will of course improve their ATGMs after the Ukraine war.

      The question now is whether western countries can in the meantime improve their system or not.

      And mass attack of ATGMs require carriers that do not work with the current infantry tactics.

      What is the sitaution in the IDF?

  2. From a different POV:

    The situation is ugly for the Russian tank because individual ATGM fire teams of militia can kill a tank when reaching fire positions near (~500m) a tank.

    You "ripple fire" approach requires a quite high sophistication on the side of infantry, it will be limited to rgular infantry with electronic equipoment that allow the coordination of the launch of three ATGMs, two teams are only mules, one operates the electronic system.

    The alternative is a vehicle that carries the ATGMs, this vehicle will most likely not reach a firing position at relative short distance to the enemy tanks. You are back to missile tank destroyers with all their disadvantages.

    And most importnat, in a discussion with Russia as enemy we have the fact that the Russians have to solve a lot of problems:

    1) They have to build tanks that survive current ATGM launched by second rate infantry (militia).

    2) They have to build own competitive ATGMs.

    3) They have to change the culture of their army.

    1) and 3) give us at least ten years.

    1. I wrote "500+ m" because that's the minimum dive attack distance for Javelin. It could be 500...~2000 m.

      Ripple fire requires merely an NCO in control of three guys with launchers. To direct which tank to engage and to give the permission/order to do it is standard procedure.

      #1 does not require ten years. Semi active laser guidance missiles can also do a dive attack, and Russia has plenty SAL tech. They could improvise a diving ATGM working prototype from an existing model in a few months.

      #3 They don't need to change it, it's largely unchanged from 1943-1945.

      I don't think Russia is going to attack NATO, but Georgia is in trouble and just got EU integration denied (I presume becuase it's not in geographic Europe AND has two regions occupied by Russia, but Cyprus got in).

    2. "Ripple fire requires merely an NCO in control of three guys with launchers. To direct which tank to engage and to give the permission/order to do it is standard procedure."

      To coordinate the defence agianst a group of attacking tanks requires more than an NCO and three men.

      Point 1 was about Russian TANKS, they need new ones that do not have the weaknesses of the T-64/72 family. Without better tanks Russian forces may have problems in future. With the current (2020) production rate that means 10 years.

      And some of the technical improvements like ATGM may be compensated by low quality of the Russian infantry, that was my point.

  3. These are not very profound thoughts, but:
    - the Russian's equipment shortcomings are one thing, but I have been more surprised by their (apparent) lack of operational planning and logistical capability. If they had had the same equipment, with proper logistics and support, I think the result would have been quite different, regardless of Saints Javelin and NLAW.
    - I was expecting to see more signs of internal resistance to Putin within the Kremlin by now... a 'tragic helicopter accident', etc.
    - the Western media's apparent consternation at the predictable stalemate that has emerged in eastern Ukraine shows that our public figures are still emotionally like children, when it comes to war... even after Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria...

  4. Hardware: Tube Artillery:
    We're working on a 55-cal version of the M777 that might reach 70km with RAP rounds. Unclear if this will remain a tech demonstrator or become a program of record, but it could help alleviate some of the survivability concerns.

    I still wouldn't mind seeing us add a long-range 105mm gun (e.g. Leo/G7) to replace the M119 and an SPG version on the Stryker.

    ERCA should bring the Paladin up par with the latest SPGs, if it gets an autoloader.

    It's unclear if the de-evolution to attrition warfare in the Ukraine conflict is a model for future conflicts or just something specific to this conflict. If it's a model, then more emphasis on traditional tube artillery and logistics will be needed.

    Hardware: Short range AT
    We are issuing the Carl Gustav to some units. Not entirely sure what the basis of issue is. I'd like to see NLAW adopted. It's a quick way to augment infantry AT firepower without changing the TOE. Just issue them as rounds of ammunition when needed. We probably don't see the need for major AT augmentation now though, after the Russian Army's terrible performance in Ukraine.

    Hardware: Long-range AT
    We are trialing Spike NLOS on Apache. Could see this being adopted more widely by the US military.

    Hardware: Drones and anti-Drone
    We need to push for more widespread use of "copter" style drones down to the lowest levels. There's a lot we could do, both pure ISR and armed

    I'd like to see us develop a modestly-sized, jet-based, stealthy, STOVL CAS/interdiction drone. Something that could be TB2 sized (<1000kg), but able to operate relatively close to SAM systems, and above MANPADS/AAA. It could use miniature munitions like the 60lb Small Glide Munition, 13lb Raytheon Pyros, and 6lb Orbital ATK Hatchet. TB2s did a lot of damage early on to Russian forces, until the Russian's tweaked their air defense posture. Now they are unsurvivable. A stealthy version should regain some ability to operate near SAMs. Making it STOVL would eliminate being tied to an airfield. It wouldn't need long endurance if it had jet-like speed and the ability to use FARPs.

    For anti-drone, the Marines have MADIS/LMADIS and the Army has a variety of systems in the works, including adapting the Stryker's new 30mm turret as a part of AUDS. I could see APS systems on auto cannon-equipped vehicles being enhanced to perform anti-drone.

  5. Russians should have read your blog, but I'm glad, they didn't.


    1. According to today's stats, 4% of the blog's Readers are in Russia.
      U.S. 44%, Germany 8%, Poland 6%, UK 5%, Netherlands 4%

  6. At least you are man enough to admit to some mistakes. I would suggest that there are many more factors that require consideration. For example, it is exceedingly arrogant for you to recommend a solution, working on the assumption that the US Army has not thought out how to defeat its own tactics.

    1. That 'arrogance' comes from military history, as it proved me that armed bureaucracies are usually wrong on many important things.
      The burden of proof that they're correct is on them, and they did/do not show a convincing case.
      I'm just a guy on the internet. Nobody values my opinion as highly as the competence and opinion of large expert bureaucracies, so I can play loose.