“Irregular warfare is more intellectual than a bayonet charge”
In 2050 historians analyzing the reasons for the disastrous defeat of the United States Army at the hands of the Turkish and Iranian militaries in 2016 over the fate of Kurdistan seem to have reached a consensus that it was due to nearly 15 years of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan that had so depleted the Army’s material, moral, and organizational capacities that it simply lost the ability to fight against a sophisticated enemy.
In 2011 senior American Army Generals were able to show enough relative progress on the ground in Afghanistan that they persuaded lawmakers and the American President that the United States needed to maintain a significant ground presence for at least five more years in Afghanistan. Meanwhile the situation in Iraq began to deteriorate significantly to the point where the Shia government after a string of high-casualty producing bombings declared war on AlQueda in Iraq and its Sunni insurgent allies. As the civil war in Iraq thawed and reached the levels of 2007 again certain neo-conservative pundits combined with a bevy of senior American Army officers and counterinsurgency experts made a concerted argument to reinsert five American combat brigades to quell the violence. It didn’t work, they couldn’t stop it, and the civil war had to run its course. Sadly these brigades over the next two years took combined casualties of upwards to 70 a month. By the end of 2015 the Iraqi Shia Government had finally crushed, albeit brutally, their sunni resistance. It was at that point when the US presence in Iraq ended. The reinjection of combat brigades into Iraq combined with the ongoing operations in Afghanistan meant that over the course of three years close to two thirds of the American Army’s combat brigades were deployed, meaning that they spent a year deployed with only 6 months back at home station. Afghanistan, by 2015 and the American Army’s departure was really no different than it was in 2011 when senior Army Generals made their pitch to congress; the corrupt Afghan government controlled parts of the country like Kabul and other areas while the Taliban controlled much of the rest. In 2015 Afghanistan resembled the Balkans, a rough but still stable peace followed until the present day.
Then in early 2016 the war started between the United States and Turkey and Iran over the fate of Kurdistan. Both Turkey and Iran had become fed up with the constant attacks and concomitant separatist movements of their Kurdish populations and decided to ally together and act once and for all to crush Kurdish desires for independence. The Iraqi government requested American assistance and only a short while after pulling its remaining brigades out of Iraq sent in Brigades from the 101st and 82nd Airborne, 1st Cavalry and 4th Infantry Divisions; many of these Brigades had just returned from deployments to either Iraq or Afghanistan. The outcome was not pretty. American commanders, so long accustomed to training and operational deployments that involved stability and counterinsurgency operations were unable to perform the most basic tasks of combined arms synchronization. The Army’s soldiers too lacked essential individual skills of fire and movement; artillery battalions were unable to mass fires, and even though the Navy and Air Force had substantial amounts of airpower in the region the Army on the ground was unable to coordinate it against an enemy who stood and fought. Operational level logistics quickly collapsed due to the fact that a majority of it had been conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan by contractors, and those contractors refused to deploy again to Iraq to fight the Turks and Iranians. The Army under the zeitgeist of counterinsurgency had bought into Lawrence’s quip and had come to place priority for its senior commanders to be able to build trusting relationships with local populations instead of how to conduct combined arms maneuver.
The American Army was beaten and bloodied badly. It lost nearly as many soldiers in this short three month war against the Turks and Iranians than it did in almost 15 years of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It took it another twenty years to recover from this disaster but by 2050 China and Russia had established dominance in Asia, Europe, and Africa to the detriment of vital American interests.
Such is the fate, historians concluded in 2050, of Armies that become seduced by the promise of nation building at the barrel of a gun. There are such things as savage small wars of peace, but there are also savage wars of war, and the latter tends to be much bloodier if armies are unprepared.
23 thoughts on “2050: Newly Published History of the American Army’s Disaster in 2016”
The comment on logistics is one that should be taken very very seriously.
MK: Can you elaborate a little please? Do you mean all that moving of people around?
Logistics is the art of moving all the the beans, bullets and bodies to the scene of combat, and supporting the continuing operation. After the take-down of Sadam, much of the logistics support has been provided by highly paid private contractor firms.
Turkey, Iran and whose air force?
A single American carrier air wing could beat either Turkey’s or Iran’s air force in a stand up fight.
A single F-22 squadron would beat both air forces by itself.
No defending army has logistics under 21st century American air superiority.
Let alone _attacking_ 3rd world army’s in mountains.
Even leaving aside that, American infantry has organic UAV’s, Javelin missiles and GPS guided artillery.
A conventional short term conscript 3rd world armies, attacking in mountains, against that kind of firepower has less chance than the heavily mechanized Iraqis did in Northern Kurdistan versus American 10th Special Forces group and Kurdish Peshmerga.
The Battle of Debecka Pass
And please note, The Battle of Debecka Pass happened in 2003.
Three years before GPS guided MLRS rockets arrived.
Four years before the ROVER automated close air support control system arrived.
Five years before 155mm Excalibur shells arrived.
By 2016 every 120mm battalion level mortar in American service will have screw on GPS guidance units in place of fuses.
And even more interesting, is that the battalion level and below US Army UAV’s are going to be armed with a “Micro” and even Nano-class” JDAMS kits.
Strategy page.com has been covering adapting this GPS guidance kit for 81mm mortars. (See below)
IMO, this is a game changer. Each US Army battalion level tactical operations center is now going to own it’s own 24/7 precision guided weapon armed air force.
Welcome to the era of federalized airpower.
Airpower that is incapable by design of being used and directed by a centralized theater air commander.
Airpower that is organic to American ground units and provides close air support and reconnaissance, with in it’s capability, to the local ground commander without clearance through six to seven layers and two services worth of military command and control to get the job done.
The 1970’s era saying was “If you can see it, you can hit it. If you can hit it, you can kill it” just got a close range, over the hill, around the corner, in the next alley third dimension.
Strategypage.com talks about this capability in 120mm mortar shells being parking on brigade level, Shadow class, UAVs.
The key thing I am looking for next is this Micro-JDAM kit being miniaturized down to “Nano-JDAM” sized kits for 60mm mortar shells for use on company level, Raven class, hand thrown UAVs.
Every company commander as his own air chief of staff, with his own PGM armed air force, will happen inside of five years, maybe in as little as two.
The USAF brass is going to have a heart attack when their Army liaison officers report on this happening in the field.
This is a phase shift in airpower that takes advantage of the Nintendo and X-box generations without the need for college educated pilots.
January 6, 2009: U.S. firm General Dynamics has successfully tested its RCFC (Roll Controlled Fixed Canard) flight control and guidance system with 81mm mortars dropped from aircraft. The RCFC is like the guidance kit attached to aircraft bombs to give them GPS accuracy, and turn them into JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition).
The RCFC screws into the front of the mortar shell, in place of the fuze. Dropped from the air, it will land within 5-10 meters of the GPS coordinates it was programmed for. An 81mm mortar shell weighs about eight pounds, with up to half that being explosives. It causes casualties within 20 meters of impact point. Thus GPS is accurate enough to make a micro-JDAM based on 81mm mortar shells effective. The mortar shell, with the RCFC, would weigh about fifteen pounds. A more powerful weapon would be a 120mm mortar shell. Normally, these weigh about 35 pounds, with up to fifteen pounds of explosives. An RCFC version of this would weigh about 45 pounds. Such weapons would be expensive. While the mortar shells themselves cost $50-100 each, the RCFC for each would cost over $20,000.
These would be competing with the many precision weapons the troops on the ground already have. For example, there is the 26 pound Javelin, with its nine pound warhead, and the larger (fifty pound) TOW with a 13 pound warhead. These two missiles are expensive, with TOW costing $25,000 each, and Javelin $75,000.
But even that can be too much bang for the infantry. That’s why the AT4 rocket launcher, and its four pound warhead is so popular. It’s not laser guided, and you have to be pretty close to use it. But at the normal ranges its used (a hundred meters or so), it’s very accurate, and it’s cheap ($2,700). The LAW is similar, smaller (2.2 pound warhead) and cheaper ($2,000).
What these smaller JDAMs are handy for are smaller UAVs out on patrol, and in need of a small weapon for targets of opportunity (like a few guys trying to set up a roadside bomb.)
Orders of magnitude mean things.
The deployment of this “GPS fuse” — think of them as JDAM kits for artillery and mortar shells — is the firepower equivalent of going from 1870’s machine gun unit deployment deployment to late WWI levels of machine gun deployment. That is, going from machine gun as a “regimental gun” to platoon heavy support weapon, virtually over night.
The US Military’s ground forces have developed tactical operations centers at brigade, battalion and increasingly at company level that are multi-media and direct both UAV’s and ground based video/laser tracking and targeting. In Afghanistan and Iraq American soldiers are using 155mm Excalibur and 227mm GMLRS rockets to engage targets urban targets due to their speed of flight, smaller collateral damage and shorter engagement time due to shorter coordination time, compared to USAF close air support. Most of the “Close air support” in 2006 in Iraq was in fact GMLRS fire missions.
The deployment of the GPS fuse to mortars means that those battalion and company tactical operations centers (TOCs) can engage targets out of line of sight with precision guided munitions from organic means without the time taken to call higher level chain of command. This is *extremely* important because every level of authority required to make a decision doubles the amount of time it takes to make one.
The “Kill chain,” to use the modern term of art, with GPS fused mortars is roughly double the ballistic flight time of a GPS mortar shell in combat.
That speed, rate, and volume of indirect fire PGM engagement will elevate American ground forces fire power, compared to the current Russian or Chinese Army’s, to roughly that of the Maxim machine gun armed Imperial British Army versus the Zulus or the Dervishes.
This development will not only humbug the whole modern close air support paradigm. It has made a humbug the “Missiles in a box” NLOS-LS from the FCS program as well.
I know GPS fuses on Naval 5-inch guns are going to make the USMC ANGLICO teams very happy.
Hell, a single USMC infantry battalion based MEU could stop a Chinese invasion of Taiwan _by itself_ with organic artillery and mortars firing nothing but GPS fused cluster bomblet shells.
Consider this passage from wikipedia on the SADARM:
The system was used for the first time during combat during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, with a total of 121 rounds reported fired by the 3rd Infantry Division with 48 vehicle kills attributed to 108 M895 (sic) SADARM projectiles.
Given that there are two SADARM canisters per M895 shell, we are looking at a 22% hit rate for the 216 canisters fired in combat.
Now assume GPS fuses for the SADARM carrier shells and a JSTARS/UAV combination to play forward observer increasing that to a 44% hit rate. We have dropped the total number of M895 shells required from 108 to 54.
Now assume that JSTARS/UAV combo is backed up by FCS unattended ground sensors, thus increasing the SADARM hit percentage to 88%.
We now only need 27 M895 shells with 54 SADARM canisters to kill those 48 Iraqi vehicles.
That is the power of GPS fuses with SADARM.
Now consider that if we know which Iraqi vehicles are wheeled and which are tracked, we can substitute air burst HE shells for some of the SADARM to kill soft vehicles.
This isn’t _A_ magic bullet.
It is hundreds if not thousands of magic bullets fielded in a command, control and intelligence system that can target all of them rapidly across the battlefield.
Heavy forces will need to field anti-shell and missile point defenses a’la HAMMERS SLAMMERS to remain relevant on the battlefield.
We are lucky that Iraq’s Green Zone shelling got us to deploy Phalanx in the anti-shell “C-RAM” (Counter artillery rocket and mortar) technology. It will give us the technological basis to deploy counter PGM artillery systems sooner than our adversaries.
See these links:
Army’s rarely follow those convoy spacing guidelines.
See the pictures of Russian convoys in Georgia and our convoys in the Gulf Wars.
Now consider that each GPS fused shell will have its own separate aim point with a 50 meter CEP.
The next step after GPS fuse deployment will be automating the process of generating GPS aim points and transmitting them to the fuses on the guns.
If you have a GPS & laser range finder equipped UAV generating GPS coordinates for a high speed avenue of approach, then generating a “GPS FUSE Time On Target” on that route is a matter of target engagement optimizing software.
The first step in this evolution will be generating the equivalent of final protective fires. Later iterations will allow this kill GPS Fuse zone to be generated on the fly against moving convoys based on the data provided by our sensors. This level of capability is when we start replacing some of the SADARM shells with HE-Frag to kill soft vehicles.
As for point defense ammunition versus saturation, the issue of C-RAM capability boils down to when we deploy directed energy weapons that run on vehicle power. It is coming.
In the meantime, we are going to deploy Phalanx for area coverage and Iron Dome style mini-missiles on our AFV’s.
All of the above are going to be in American military ground forces in Afghanistan by 2016.
You sound like a RMA warrior right out of the 1990s with the belief that technology can produce perfect knowledge of the enemy which will then allow ground units to easily coordinate fires to destroy.
But in war history has shown the fallacy of such thinking. The Soviets learned very early fighting the Germans on the Eastern Front that light reconnaissance vehicles were worthless and that in order to get information on the enemy they had to fight, effectively that is, to produce it. My greater point in this hypothetical was to show the detrimental effects of so many years of a Counterinsurgency zeiteist on the US Army. Sure we have command posts from battalion all the way up, but if the Army’s leaders to not know the basics of combined arms coordination and synchronization then all of the gee wiz gizmos that you mention will be nearly worthless in the face of a foe who fights beyond laying ieds on the road and then runs away
I am talking recent objective American military battlefield performance, not RMA affairs puffery.
The Battle of Debecka Pass happened in 2003. That was seven years ago.
A platoon sized “Counter insurgency force” of the 10th Special forces Group, supported by a company sized unit of Kurdish Peshmerga attacked and defeated a 6,400 person force of Iraqi 34th mechanized infantry division with Javelins and close air support.
Did I mention that the attacking 10th SF group was outnumbered 20 to 1?
The teams using the Javelin at Debecka scored 17 hits for 19 shots, and shattered a far larger mechanized 3rd world enemy force, in a dug in defensive position and with artillery superiority, with fire and forget missiles and JDAMS and laser guided bomb close air support.
There is nothing in the Turkish or Iranian arsenals that can beat F-22’s in the air. America would have air superiority just by showing up. After that, we can air-resupply our troops with PGM’s like the Javelin, GMLRS, Excalibur and GPS fuses.
It is then game over for the Turkish and Iranian conventional forces as they American light infantry clean ups the Turkish and Iranian armored vehicle “Leakers” after the B-52s et al get through with them.
The US has been careful to rotate our combat units judiciously, and made efforts to maintain their ability to conduct conventional operations. While their ability to do so has no doubt suffered as a consequence of the current long-war, their ability has likely fallen from vastly superior to everyone else to merely clearly superior to everyone else. US training so outstrips the rest of the world, especially countries like Iran, that counting beans or tanks makes almost no sense. See Biddle’s book about measuring military power for a detailed exploration of this.
The rub for me is that the US would rush to the defense of the Kurds. Getting into a war with Turkey would be costly on a number of dimensions. It would be difficult to avoid embroiling the region. I’m not certain the US would be willing to pay the price.
You may be right, it is a future hypothetical which I took in the spirit of pushing the envelope on things to make points about the present and immediate future. Who knows what will happen. And I am not as sanquine as you are that although our combined arms competencies have atrophied we are still good enough to take anybody out there down. The Israeli Army probably thought that way in 06, then got their nose bloodied badly against Hiz as a result.
Trent: Sorry dude, you are talking RMA stuff. You have just matter of factly stated that if we did confront the Turks in this scenario a few F22s applying superior american firewpower would do the trick. Then the light dicks on the groung just go in and clean things up. Go back and read Cebrowski, Scales, Krepenivich’s stuff from the 90s and you will see your words on this thread in the mirror.
Look, I am a big believer in technology and firepower, but not a true believer to the point that it will compensate for lost competencies at combined arms coordination and synchronization. And I am here to tell you that although rifle squads and platoons may be faily competent today at returning fire and calling for indirect fires in the valleys and flatlands of Astan, we have lost those very skills at battalions and higher.
My thoughts on some of the themes of this post:
Most of the capabilities of the revolution inmilitary affairs exist and are present in American forces today.
Blue force tracker exists. It has been used successfully in combat in the thousands and several generations of terminals exist.
ROVER (Remote Operations Video Enhanced Receiver) exists, it has been used in the hundreds to share UAV and GPS data between forward air controlers, ground troops and CAS planes and the fifth generation is in development.
Javelins exist, they has been used successfully in combat. Several blocks of improving models exist,
GMLRS exists, they has been used successfully in combat in the low thousands. Several blocks of improving models exist.
JDAMS exist, they have been used in the tens of thousands.
The B-2 exists, it has been used in combat.
F-22s exist. Exercises where we pull out all our toys see F-22’s killing at better than 50-to-1 agains the best F-15’s, F-16’s and F-18’s can throw at them.
The revolution in military affairs is old hat for the guys at the sharp end.
Back in 2008 I went looking for and found the latest incarnation of the US Army’s Field Artillery Magazine on-line (“Fires” magazine).
They had very interesting articles on changing use of the Guided MLRS and other precision guided artillery in Iraq.
The bottom line is that a very rapid, bottom up driven, communication “kill chain” has developed that is much faster than the traditional close air support request for an aircraft sortie coordination chain.
The most notable change in theater during the past two rotations is the increased communications between the requesting units (including maneuver task forces) and the MLRS battery. The major benefit to this is that less time is spent routing the call for fire because the mission now comes directly from either a BCT fire support element (FSE) or from requesting unit itself.
In situations that call for preplanned strikes, this technique is much easier for both the battery and the requesting unit due to two enabling factors. First, the requesting units now immediately send a proximate grid to the MLRS battery. In turn, the battery generates a maximum ordinate and time-of-flight on the Advanced FA Tactical Data System (AFATDS) computer. The battery then distributes this data—via an internet relay chat program (my Internet Relay Chat or mIRC)—to every essential unit in the clearance and firing chain process. Consequently, airspace clearance can begin while waiting for mission approval.
Of important note, because the planning is conducted with widespread oversight from higher headquarters, less time is spent offering last minute explanations of a particular target’s tactical validity. Secondly, the targets’ complexity and scope are changing as rapidly as the increase in units requesting PGM usage.
The delegation in the GMRLS release authority, and Harrington’s efforts to accomplish that, led us to where we are today in Iraq. Targets today are much more complex and much more fluid. Because of that, task force commanders and fire support officers (FSOs) are building GMLRS into their fire plans because they know that, if it’s needed, it will be approved—whether deliberately or in a preplanned variety. This could not have happened without the ingenuity and tactical situational understanding of Harrington and his staff.
However, because the targets are more dynamic, bottom-up feedback often is required to finalize strike packages. In some cases, attack guidance is crafted with the help of the experts within the GMLRS firing unit. Moreover, Special Operations Forces (SOF) now can use GMLRS to engage fleeting targets because of their aggressive targeting techniques and a centralized control of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
GMLRS units now are involved intricately in the development of potential strike packages. More specifically, a GMLRS representative will offer attack guidance on not only the initial engagement, but also at least two contingent sites that the enemy may congregate to. The majority of this feedback is done on mIRC, or in some cases, the GMLRS unit will have a liaison at the targeting meeting.
The technique of engaging transitory targets was refined by tracking potential targets (i.e., improvised explosive device or IED emplacement teams, vehicles with antiaircraft guns or mortars mounted, or insurgents gathering in palm groves) with UAVs. Engaging these types of targets requires crisp communication drills, extensive rehearsals and, most importantly, familiarity between the sensor and the shooter.
During the past 15 months, task force FSOs, BCT FSEs, and others improved their understanding of GMLRS while improving their abilities to engage targets actively with spectacular results. When considering that C/2-4 FAR was divided among four different locations and engaging a variety of targets throughout Iraq, it’s safe to say that GMLRS delivery capabilities established a much larger footprint since June 2005.
In so many words, the US Army has made the use of GMLRS a “bottom-up” close support weapon for combat soldiers in “hot contact” with the enemy. One whose use is either “built into the plan” or can be used “outside the plan” in about twice the flight time of the weapon (less than five minutes).
The use of internet relay chat allows the local ground forces to immediately clear overhead air space of manned aircraft for incoming ballistic GMLRS strikes.
Organizationally, the US Army (or Marines) in Iraq controlled the air space above its troops for all intents and purposes. Incoming artillery always has the right of way no matter what the USAF says in it’s theater air tasking order.
The smaller size of the GMLRS warhead allows its use to be delegated down to NCO level in the field, without the use of USAF JAG officers to sign off on the release of ordnance from jet strike fighters.
(Note: The arrival of the Obama Administration and the General McCrystal ROE in Afghanistan put so many approval hoops in that it took nine hours to get a CAS strike approved and the USAF reasserted its control over the air space so that no one could fire a 155mm gun, let alone GMLRS, without the USAF clearance. That isn’t a limitation of the deployed RMA, it is a political one.)
The following is from an interview conducted in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on 11 April 2008, about a month after BG McDonald returned to the states as part of III Corps, at Fort Hood, Texas:
Q – How effective was the 70-kilometer Guided MLRS
(GMLRS) Unitary, a precision-guided munition
(PGM)? The 24-kilometer 155-mm Excalibur Unitary
A – Extremely effective. The accuracy of these PGMs is
exactly what we need in an urban environment.
Using GMLRS, we could fire a projectile with a 200-pound
warhead and take out only a portion of a house, if we needed
to, or fire several projectiles and take out the entire house—
both options with very little collateral damage. GMLRS was
the brigade commanders’ weapon of choice.
We could bring these PGMs in quickly in all weather conditions.
The airspace in our environment is very complex, but with our fire support
automated systems, we could clear airspace for our PGMs rapidly and routinely.
PGMs are here to stay, and we need to develop more and figure
out ways to use them. For example, why shoot hundreds of
counterfire rounds when we can shoot one PGM and take out
the piece shooting at us? We also need to improve our system
to determine accurate grids.
The arrival of the precision guidance kit (PGK) (AKA the GPS-guidance fuse) for 155mm shells in October 2009 (and it’s propagation to 105mm guns and 120mm mortars in 2011-12) means that additional or faster kill chains will be added to more and smaller American ground units.
The effect of these developments on American ground forces fire power, particularly for light Infantry, cannot be over stated.
No doubt that the Israelis were bloodied in their most recent Lebanon campaign, but there is more to the story than that. First, their initial plan was not one of conventional warfare. It took them a while to change posture. Secondly, most of the Western world badly underestimated Hezbollah, including the Israelis. Once the Israelis understood what they were up against, they spooled up pretty smartly, and in spite of lack of recent practice and employment of more dated equipment, turned in an excellent performance.
Skill at arms is power. You could give US forces Soviet equipment, and our enemies ours, and we would still almost certainly prevail. Purchasing equipment is inexpensive relative to training to use it, practicing its employment on a large scale, and maintaining it. Most of the advanced weapons purchased outside the a few western powers is rarely trained with, rarely deployed in any meaningful fashion, and, more often than not, not in working order. This is especially true if we retained our ‘tail’ of logistic, intelligence, and communications support. Even major powers, such as the Brits, blow it with logistics.
The technological RMA has perhaps come to fruition. Ironically, the training required to exploit it is retained by only a few powers. And yes, the US trains its forces to a radically higher level than almost any power (certainly Iran, and even Turkey). Our forces train more, deploy more, and exercise more in a year than most militaries do in a decade.
>And I am here to tell you that although rifle squads and platoons may be faily competent today
>at returning fire and calling for indirect fires in the valleys and flatlands of Astan, we
>have lost those very skills at battalions and higher.
The Battle of Debecka Pass did not require higher than company level combined arms coordination and synchronization.
What we have lost is the Corp/Army level mechanized combined arms coordination and synchronization operations.
I will note, however, that for most of the US Army’s history it has lacked the ability to do that at all, let alone do it well.
This is even more true of other Army’s.
Logistics and particularly the truck parks, truck spares and fuel budgets needed for that sort of thing cost lots of money and don’t look impressive in parades. The same is true of the signals (radios, telephone/wire and computers).
I keep reading over on strategypage.com about how many tanks the Indian Army is buying compared to Pakistan and China.
I would be a lot more impressed with India if they announced a 10-ton truck contract for 50,000 vehicles over 5-years and a 100,000 digital radio contract over the same time span.
Since neither Turkey nor Iran have bothered with as much as India has done over the last couple of years. Getting doubled teamed by them and _losing_ comes under my “What if we were invaded by space aliens” column.
My question was poorly-worded. I meant the specific scenario about moving combat brigades around between Iraq and Afghanistan.
One of my pet peeves working in a hospital is that so few people really pay proper attention to medical logistics. Medical groups and hospitals will open a new off-site clinic, or a new clinic within the main referring hospital, and forget that moving people around takes time and eats into a doctor’s (and nurse’s) efficiency. They forget that moving people around affects work flow and productivity.
So, I guess that’s what I really meant. Do we assume a mobility that we don’t really have?
Why do you think Debecka is a transferable template to my futuristic scenario? Huge differences there are, huge! The Iraqi Army ended up attacking with only a single mech company with a few tanks; hence they had no tactical and especially operational depth. Plus they were pummeled prior by B52s etc. The scenario I constructed is vastly different where sure the US probably would have air superiority but it would have to fight for it and it would not remain uncontested. Moreover as is the seduction with many coin experts who don’t understand war and combined arms maneuver this was a singular, point tactical engagement. What happens if the American Army in my scenario has to deal with 15 of these simultaneously?
Face it man, your words would have made Rumseld proud on the eve of OIF 1, they ring of shock and awe all over again.
Brother Fouche: Combined arms competencies are much more difficult than your metaphor of walking and chewing gum at the same time implies.
Just FYI, the Warlord crowd is also discussing your post here, generally favorably.
>The scenario I constructed is vastly different where sure the US probably would have air
>superiority but it would have to fight for it and it would not remain uncontested. Moreover as
>is the seduction with many coin experts who don’t understand war and combined arms maneuver
>this was a singular, point tactical engagement. What happens if the American Army in my
>scenario has to deal with 15 of these simultaneously?
Based on what one B-52H did in April 2003 to an Iraqi Republican Guard tank column defending Baghdad with six CBU-105. About four B-52/B-1/B-2 sorties, with thirty CBU-105C/B each, would cover it:
WCMD (Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser) is a modification kit to equip submunition dispensers of the TMD (Tactical Munitions Despenser) family (SUU-64/B, SUU-65/B and SUU-66/B) with a guidance system. Development began in the 1995/96 time frame, and low-rate production by Lockheed Martin started in 1998. In 2000, WCMD was declared ready for operational use (on B-52 and F-16 aircraft), and in 2001 full-rate production began. More than 10000 WCMD kits have been delivered so far, and the U.S. Air Force has a requirement for up to 40000 units.
The Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser system is a tail kit for use with the TMD (Tactical Munitions Dispenser) family of cluster bombs to convert them to precision-guided weapons.
CBU-103 CEM Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser system (WCMD)
CBU-97/CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon
The CBU-97 is a 1,000-pound class weapon containing sensor-fused submunitions for attacking armor. The SFW is the centerpiece of the Air Force concept of operations for engaging an adversary’s main armored force in the “halt” or “hold” phase of a Major Regional Contingency, in which the USAF would disrupt and stop an attack, providing time for other combatant forces to reinforce to the theater.
The primary components of this 1,000 pound class weapon are the SUU-66/B Tactical Munitions Dispenser (TMD), 10 BLU-108/B submunitions, and 40 “hockey puck” shaped skeet infrared sensing projectiles. The weapon is designed to be employed from US Air Force tactical aircraft from altitudes between 200 feet Above Ground Level (AGL) to 20,000 feet Mean Sea Level (MSL) at speeds between 250 to 650 knots. Each CBU-97/B can cover an area of about 500 feet by 1,200 feet. Test results indicate that CBU-97 submunitions have a propensity to cluster and that impact patterns are unevenly distributed. This is contrary to the uniform distribution assumption employed in the Joint Munitions Effectiveness Manual (JMEM). Because of the clustering effect, it appears that JMEM overestimates damage and more weapons may be required to destroy the target then predicted.
The Sensor Fuzed Weapon [SFW] is an unpowered, top attack, wide area, cluster munition, designed to achieve multiple kills per aircraft pass against enemy armor and support vehicles. After release, the TMD opens and dispenses the ten submunitions which are parachute stabilized. Each of the 10 BLU-108/B submunitions contains four armor-penetrating projectiles with infrared sensors to detect armored targets. At a preset altitude sensed by a radar altimeter, a rocket motor fires to spin the submunition and initiate an ascent. The submunition then releases its four projectiles, which are lofted over the target area. The projectile’s sensor detects a vehicle’s infrared signature, and an explosively formed penetrator fires at the heat source. If no target is detected after a period of time, the projectiles automatically after a preset time interval, causing damage to material and personnel.
And please note, that attack on the Medina division happened not because of JSTARS or anything else spotted these troops.
It happened because a troop of US Army cavalry (3/7th Cav, 3rd inf division) with an air controller bumped into these guys and called the B-52 strike down on them in the middle of a sand storm.
If my playful look at the future is any good at all it was because I read your excellent post first which inspired me to write mine, albeit emphasizing different themes.
thanks for the note
The B-52’s are grounded due to age (coming sooner rather then later). The B-1’s are retired to the boneyard (already on Gate’s chopping block). The B-2’s are grounded to due lack of budget (coming soon to a theater near you). All of the single seat F-15’s are grounded (again). All at the same time?
There are 187 total F-22’s. They cannot be in two places at the same time. They cannot kill more targets then they carry ammo and they do have to refuel on a regular basis. Their pilots are limited by human endurance (and regulations) as to the amount of time they can stay in the air.
If the Iranian’s take Basrah (and they can – see 92nd ARM Div) and close the Straights of Hormuz (and they can – at least short term), then all logistics is by air, at least temporarily. This severely limits the amounts of fuel and ammo, including all those wonderful PGM’s. It also leaves the USN fighting at the wrong end of the Gulf.
Debecka Pass was Special Forces with almost unlimited (and sometimes not so friendly) air support. The regulars are plenty good at what they do, but they are not Special Forces and even PGM’s sometimes hit the wrong targets. Air support in Col Gentiles scenario will be considerably more limited, and in some ways already is, by budget and logistics constraints, not to mention politics.
The Army is not the only branch losing its skill sets and capabilities.
War gaming is fun, until somebody gets an eye poked out…
Excellent point and thanks for reminding me about the other services and their basic warfighting functions, and what is happening to them. As a ground dude I tend to think, wrongly and naively, that the function of deliverring ordnance from the skies or seas is an authomatic thing, but of course it is not and the skills and competencies needed to do it are just as vulnerable to atrophy as the army’s combined arms skills.
The thanks is due to you Colonel Gentile. I’m just an old war gamer (one of Dunnigan’s originals).
Even if all the fancy toys were still in the box and usable, I still cannot see the current administration authorizing cluster bomb strikes on populated areas, or knocking down the Tigris bridges.
If open source (Jane’s in this case) is anywhere close to accurate, the Iranian “elite” 92nd ARM has over 400 modernized T-72’s and is located just over 60 miles and major bridge or two away from Basrah. They could be there before politics will consider or allow an air strike.
Again, if open source is even close to correct, USN currently has just one CBG within range, and its already very busy supporting the Afghan theater. No telling what that situation will be like five or six years from now, but current budget cuts and procurement issues certainly reduce the available number of flattops for much of the near future.
Noting that the Turkish air force has over 200 F-16’s and around 100 Israeli modernized F-4 Phantoms…
See Operation Sun Feb 2008, and follow on air strikes April and May of 2008. They’ve already practiced.
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