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The Optimal Battle Group vs. the Affiliated Battle Group

a_majoor

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The most interesting part of the story (and Kirkhill spotted it right away) is the "new" capabilities which were being identified by people using tools in new and different ways. We really can't imagine what sorts of ideas might have been developed from that experient, and I'm sure that if we tried something along those lines (using 1 CMBG as the "test" unit and trying things out in Wainwright) we would probably evolve in ways we havn't even considered (and looking at various posts we have considered a lot of different ideas, such as Armoured Cavalry Regiments, "Modular Manouevre Battalions", Brigade sized Combined Arms Regiments..........)
 

TangoTwoBravo

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Regarding the article, the ability to insert forces quickly into a theatre and still have the combat power necessary to deal with mechanized opponents is a difficult proposal.  What I find interesting is that the United States already had this with their USMC.  Everybody wants to be on the tip of the spear I guess. 

At the risk of looking like a rice-bowl defender, sometimes we should stick to our lanes and do what we are good at.  If we try to do somebody else's job because it looks interesting at the moment there may be grief down the line when we are called upon to execute our real tasks.  That being said, branch parochialism can be a bad thing.

I like the "homogenous" unit concept because it implies that you will have to improvise on the spot.  That means you train and prepare for that.  A mixed-unit might actually be less flexible, since you could go in thinking that you've already task-organized.  I imagine that the pressures of war will mean that even "combined arms units" will still get pulled apart and put back together to meet the situation.  This negates the prime advantage of the mixed-MOC unit in the first place.

Homogenous units must, of course, train together and see themselves as part of the same team.  I think that this happens with our current system.

 

a_majoor

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The crux of the problem seems to be flexibility. The American "establishment" worked very hard to crush the test division, rather than learn and adapt from what was being discovered. The three man TOW dets, the inflexible attitude towards light armour and resistance to using ground launched HELLFIRE since it moved onto "artillery" turf don't speak too highly of the establishment.

These sorts of arguments will rise up and bite us again, since technology continues to extend and blend capabilities. A Leopard tank firing a LAHAT through tube missile can engage a target 13Km away; is it an "Armour" capability or an "Artillery" capability? Infantry soldiers with Gill/Spike can engage targets at ranges of 5 Km, and use the fiber optic system as a recce UAV during the flight of the missile. EFOG-M has a range of 10Km, and various proposals have been made for FOG-M munitions with ranges of up to 60km.

MMEV, if it had ever happened, would have been another "gender bender", and even a stripped down proposal I wrote up (using a Blazer turret armed with a 25mm chain gun and Starstreak missiles) could be a Triple A system or a recce DFSV.

We will have to do a lot of thinking about how capabilities change the way we organize and work.
 

Kirkhill

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Maybe the only real innovation we'll find is if we can locate another Alexander Gault or Lord Strathcona and have them recruit volunteers to staff a private army, equipped and trained at personal expense, then put at the service of the government to fulfill a specific task.

Keep the unit away from the accountants and micro-managers.  Set it up on a "no cure, no pay" cost recovery system.  Here's the job.  Here's the price.  You solve the problem.  You get paid AFTER the fact.
 

TangoTwoBravo

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On the other hand, the US Army (and the US armed forces in general) did go through a fairly significant renaissance during the same period.  Much of this was, I suppose, iterative or evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary, but the point remains that they fielded some rather impressive new pieces of kit in fairly effective formations.  Accounting is boring, but a military does need to prioritize in terms of resources.  While the US Army did not field a light tank during the 80s, they put the M1 into the field and then made some significant upgrades along the way.

Bureaucratic obstacles should be investigated and removed if required.  That being said, there can be good reasons for restricting capabilties in certain systems/branches.  Putting an air defence system on every tank or AFV is possible, but I'm not sure I'd want to do it even if it came at no dollar cost.  The same can be said for indirect fire and long-range NLOS missiles in the hands of every small unit.  Coordinating air defence and fires is tough enough as it is right now.  Looking a money again, if adding a whiz-bang indirect fire capability to a tank comes at a significant dollar cost and only partially replicates the capability already provided by a dedicated system then I can see a reason for killing a particular upgrade. 

As a complete tangent, I've been reading on the Russo-Japanese War (1904/05) and how it was interpreted by the European powers.  I'm not sure if we are on the cusp of a RMA in the same order of magnitude that was occuring in the years leading up to the First World War.  It is still, however, a cautionary tale for pro-establishment traditionalists and nay-sayers like me!

 

Red 6

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I spent four years in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in the 1980's, back when the US Army had three ACRs. These outfits were assigned to the armored corps. There were two in Europe and one stateside. While I was with the Regiment, we were in the H-series organization and the reorganized to the J-series. The armored cavalry regiment, of which only one still exists in the Army, were a powerful combined arms force that were permanently task-organized in garrison and combat.

The armored cavalry squadron had three line troops, a tank company, an artillery battery, an ADA platoon, an AVLB section and the full range of support assets. The regiment had three line squadrons, an air cavalry squadron, engineer and MI companies, and other assets that I can't remember anymore. We often were plussed-up with slice elements for Reforger, etc. But the basic organization stayed the same and we had a solid system that worked everyday, regardless of whether we were on the border, at gunnery in Graf or on maneuvers.

In the armored cavalry troop under the J-series we had two tanks platoons, two scout platoons, a mortar section, HQ and maintenance platoons. In 88 and 89 we did a test where they mixed up the tanks and Bradleys in our troop to make combined platoons. Operationally, it was a throwback to the old H-series TOE where the PL rode on a 113 and the PSG was on a tank. The theory with the test was that the troop could cover the same amount of ground and so did the platoons, but having all the platoons permanently task-organized would make them more flexible and responsive. We never did find out whether it worked or not, but were always saying that if the Army couldn't figure out the deal with the H-series after all those years, our stab at mixing it up wouldn't prove much. It was fun though, since all the scouts got licensed to drive the tanks and vice versa.

Thursdays in the US Army have always been designated as "sergeant's day" where NCO's are supposed to have uninterrupted time for training their Soldiers in individual and collective tasks. Anyway, in the cav squadron, we had lots of Soldiers in low density MOS's spread out all over the place and they would link up for their training across troop lines.

After I left the Blackhorse I was assigned to the Big Red One at Fort Riley, KS. I served in an armored battalion scout platoon and the battalion was pure in garrison and task organized for operations. It was always a goat screw when we were getting ready for an NTC rotation or field maneuvers on reorg day. Two tank companies would leave the hardstand and two companies of mech infantry would show up and so did all the slice elements. PLL was f***ed for awhile until they got all the right parts on-hand. The Soldiers still lived in the barracks from their home elements, but did PT with us. In theory, we got the same people everytime, but it never worked that way in practice. In my platoon we were supposed to get an ADA section, and an engineer platoon. We wasted so much time just figuring out who was who. In a word, it was stupid.

To me it boils down to ownership and flexibility. Permanent task organizations send the message that we are in this for warfighting and will focus our energy on building and sustaining EFFECTIVE task forces that train as they fight. Pure battalions look pretty in the hardstand, but that's not how they fight. Yes, it is tough to sustain critical skills in low density MOS's but Soldiers are smart and they can do it.

Let's face it, the days are over when infantrymen with bayonets were alone at the sharp end of the spear. If you could take a slice of the battlefield and analyze what MOS's were down there, they would all be mixed up. It only makes sense to officially organize them that way in garrison so much as possible.
 

TangoTwoBravo

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The Cavalry organizations are probably the strongest argument for mixed-units.  A point to keep in mind, however, was that they were intended for a rather specialized purpose. 

Thinking back some ten years here, I think that Cavalry Squadrons had the same number of mortars as infantry or armor battalions, but they decentralized them up front (two per Troop as opposed to six held centrally at Sqn (Bn) level.  Given their expected task that made sense.  It might not make sense for a tank/infantry task force given their expected tasks to also permantly decentralize their mortars.  Where there any infantrymen in the Cavalry units with the exception of the mortarmen?

Centralization vs de-centralization of "enablers" is an old problem.  Do you centralize those Maxim machine guns into a battery held at Brigade level or do you give two to each Battalion?  I'm not sure if there is a hard and fast answer.  What works for one system might not work for another (I think we answered the machine gun question somewhere).  I favour de-centralized CSS assets where a given unit "owns" its first line CSS elements, but I also want Svc Bns and NSEs.  I think that each "unit" should own some level of integral fire support, but I also want a given commander to be able to mass his fires into a hammer for the big fight.  To have both means lots of resources.  Habitual affiliation is one way to solve the dilemma.

My own upbringing has been in an Armoured Regiment within a Mechanized Brigade (so to speak).  I've been in a Squadron that worked with two mechanized battlions (six companies) over a one year period.  Each battalion had its own quirks and that extended down to companies.  Still, we were able to work with these different companies.  The first day is always tough (we like to follow the old "run, stumble, fall" approach to collective training sometimes).  Adding a new FOO or an AD Tp could also lead to fun if you just said "as per SOP" and hit the LD.

Being in one square combat team in garrison and in the field would be nice if you could guarantee that that combat team would always work together in battle.  I'm not sure if we can predict that.  Canada could realistically field one of those permanent square combat teams on operations (using a three to one principle).  Scarce enablers get moved around to minimize the time they are sitting idle.  Now, we could decide to form "permanent combat teams" consisting of a company of LAVs, a Tp of tanks, a Tp of sappers and a Tp of M777.  They could exist in Canada and live and train together.  This kind of thing does happen from time to time on operations, but sometimes the commander wants to concentrate his enablers.  In addition, those tankers, gunners and sappers came from somewhere (a Regiment that generate them).

Looking at the Germans in WW II, they had "pure" battalions and regiments that belonged to "mixed" Divisions.  That didn't seem to stop them having well-integrated yet temporary combined arms battle groups. 
 

a_majoor

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WRT the question of centralization, technology has moved things up and down the line.

Current operations and evolving doctrine move units, sub units and sub sub units farther and farther away (and complex terrain such as urban canyons make the next block almost as inaccessible as the next county). In Afghanistan, platoons and sections can measure the distance between them and the next higher formation in kilometers, often separated by mountainous terrain.

To allow units to function in such environments, they have to be more self contained. Firepower assets need to be able to engage unpredictable targets in a 3D environment, and there are indications that even third world fighters will have access to advanced military technology (for example Hezbollah in south Lebanon using UAV's and anti-ship missiles supplied by Iran). In this sort of situation, attaching "Starstreak" missiles to an IFV makes sense, the crew has the ability to deal with high value targets like UAV's and use the considerable kinetic energy of the missile against hard ground targets as well. On a slightly larger scale (the one we are talking about), having Optimal Battle Groups allows the formation to be self contained and function as a "well oiled machine" in most war fighting scenarios against unpridicatable opponents in a 3600 environment.

Proponents of centralization should note how technology has changed the equation as well. Instead of brigading mortars and artillery to deal with hard targets, higher levels of command send air assets to pummel the targets. In the future, super long range artillery assets like HiMARS or EFOG-M will probably be in the theater commander's kitbag, and farther along, the Joint commander might be calling on the railguns of the DDX-21 to fire on targets almost 300km from the ship. Other proposals along these lines include retrofitted SLBM's with conventional warheads and hypersonic cruise missiles. An OBG that runs into trouble is only a radio call away from help.

Since the moment of contact is the time for the maximum confusion, friction and "fog of war" to take place, having everyone as part of a well trained and cohesive team brings the highest payoff. OBG's also ensure "corporate memory" ratherr than having to redo the basics every time an ABG is formed.

 

McG

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a_majoor said:
OBG's also ensure "corporate memory" ratherr than having to redo the basics every time an ABG is formed.
No.  The affiliation is permanent.  Everytime a battalion goes to the field, it could choose to bring its affiliated tank squadron, engineer squadron, and artillery battery.  The difference is back in garrison where focus will typically be on individual skills anyway.
 

Old Sweat

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The ABG also has a couple of advantages that may not be all that readily apparent. First the commander of the BG in ABG and OBG does not have to concern himself with the individual and collective training requirements of his affiliated sub-units. There surely are more than enough alligators lurking in the training challenges of his own corps without adding those of three or four others. It also allows the parent corps of the sub-units to control the training and to assess how the officers and NCMs are developing.

I hope this is not a red herring, but it is entirely possible a major whose PER (or whatever the annual report is called these days) was not written within the regimental family will suffer alongside his unaffiliated peers.

I served the majority of my field career in affiliated batteries and there was little doubt that we gunners identified closely with our 'other' regiments. In fact, we used to get in quite spirited discussions if anyone dared disparage them. Affiliation works. I am not sure optimization, which is a contradiction in itself, is more than a solution in search of a problem.



 

TangoTwoBravo

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Art,

On the other hand, evolving technology can actually support centralization.  Strike aircraft do not belong to a given maneouvre unit.  They tend to be centralized at the highest level and then assigned to a given unit for a given mission (planned or immediate).  Long-range artillery and missiles lend themselves to centralization.  The sensors can certainly be decentralized.  The control and coordination piece is the tricky part.

I have witnessed the employment of "Platoon Groups", but I would hesitate to declare them as the only way of the future.  Our platoon commanders must be adept at the employment of other arms, and relatively junior leaders in the other arms must be adept at being "arms advisors."  I still think, however, that companies and battalions have a place and that it is hard to predict exactly which of your scarce resources you will need at a given moment in time.  A given task may require a Troop of sappers to get it done, but if you've scattered them across the combat team it can be hard to bring them back together to get that task done.

Personnel postings and rotations can lead to corporate memory loss to some degree, so an OBG will not necessarily have a huge advantage over an ABG.

I am in favour of combined arms groupings and I tend to de-centralization and self-containment when feasible.  I also admire concentration of force and economy of effort.  I lean towards affiliation as it allows for different arms to get to know each other through training while maintaining corps-specific skills and espirit de corps.  I think that the baseline training and preparation of a given element of a given arm is best done under the leadership and mentorship of a CO/RSM from that arm.

Cheers

T2B
 

Mountie

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I was viewing the power point presentation on artillery transformation located on another post.  I see several  references to Formed Battle Groups.  Has the decision been made to switch to permanently formed battle groups?
 

AIC_2K5

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I was browsing the 07/08 Report on Plans and Priorities and I came across this little tidbit:

"Contributing to international security and stability, the Regular Force will be restructured into cohesive Affiliated Battle Groups operationally focused on mid-intensity, full-spectrum operations in failed and failing states. The initial trials with the first Affiliated Battle Group will begin during the fall of 2007, when the task force then deployed in Afghanistan returns."

On the definition of the proposed Affiliated Battle Group:

"Affiliated Battle Groups will be organized, structured, equipped and trained as they will be employed on
expeditionary operations. They will be composed of a mixture of light and LAV infantry companies,
an armoured reconnaissance squadron, an engineer squadron, an artillery battery, military police and
combat service support elements. The restructure of the Regular Force, combined with equipment
modernization, forms a cornerstone of institutional capability investments and is key to positioning the
Land Force to meet its force generation and force employment requirements."

http://www.vcds.forces.gc.ca/dgsp/00native/rep-pub/ddm/rpp/rpp07-08/RPP07-08_e.pdf
Page 30

Additionally:

"Force development work in support of a concept of territorial defence battalion groups regionally distributed across the country will lead to the establishment of initial cadres in six urban locations fiscal 2007-2008, with an expanded capability in fiscal 2008-2009. This initiative will support the Government of Canada’s Canada First policy by creating a coordinated domestic response capability across the country."


Thoughts?
 

PPCLI Guy

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Bubbles said:
Thoughts?

Close the gap between Force Generation constructs and Force Employment constructs, and we may be on to something....

Let us not forget that no one has ever asked the Navy to deploy 1.5 Frigates - so why would the Army always allow that to happen?

Dave
 

McG

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PPCLI Guy said:
Let us not forget that no one has ever asked the Navy to deploy 1.5 Frigates - so why would the Army always allow that to happen?
Better question is why is the Army FG structure built on a series of 1.4 frigates?  Imagine if we were to put the brigades out on a massive parade square and then have each brigade group its people into generic BGs.  forget the equipment for the moment and assume that nobody is sick, lame or on tasking.  We would probably see one completed BG for each Bde, then .75 of a BG and finally .30 of a BG.
 

Brad Sallows

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After you parcel out the artillery, engineer, recce, tank etc sub-units, what do you do with the unit HQs and the capabilities and institutional knowledge they represent?

What happens if a formation commander one day needs a unit-sized engineer-heavy or recce-heavy organization for a particular task?  Does he pull a handful of sub-units "owned" by subordinate unit commanders, throw them together with an ad hoc HQ and tell them to behave like the applicable kind of regimental grouping?
 

Mortar guy

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Brad,

That's a good point but I think we need to focus on what's really happening rather than basing our ORBAT on scenarios that are unlikely to happen. For the last 30 years or more we have deployed BGs based on an Inf Bn (or other arms re-roled to inf) with sub-unit sized attachments. So, why have we been ad hocing FG for those BGs when that has been the SOP for decades? I would say that the scenarios you describe are much less likely and so why would we organize our Army for the least likely scenarios?

Cheers.

MG
 

McG

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Mortar guy said:
For the last 30 years or more we have deployed BGs based on an Inf Bn (or other arms re-roled to inf) with sub-unit sized attachments.
We deployed CERs to Iraq & in the early days to Yugoslavia, so the Inf BG only trend is less than 30 years old.  Still, it is a trend.

However, I'd thought I'd heard the CDS had a vision of being capable to conduct Bde operations.  It seems to me that the only way we can get flexibility to do both (BG and Bde ops) is balancing our CMBGs so that they have all the parts (and these parts must be complete with all pers & kit) for three ABGs each.
 

vonGarvin

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MCG said:
However, I'd thought I'd heard the CDS had a vision of being capable to conduct Bde operations.  It seems to me that the only way we can get flexibility to do both (BG and Bde ops) is balancing our CMBGs so that they have all the parts (and these parts must be complete with all pers & kit) for three ABGs each.

So, how about brigades (or brigade groups) each homogenous so that 1 bde looks like 5 bde, and so forth.  Each with an HQ element, a number of manoeuvre battalions (infantry and tank), a number of combat support battalions (engineer, artillery, etc) and even a combat service support battalion.  Then, if the bde comd is tasked to field or conduct bde operations, he/she has all the working parts required.  If a BG is told to go "fight the commies.......here!", then how about a novel idea of using the chain-of-command, tasking that to a bde comd to deploy one of his/her units, and then they can mix/match.  This is just an idea, I know.....
 
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