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The Optimal Battle Group vs. the Affiliated Battle Group

rampage800

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Mortarman

I agree whole heartily with your comment, there is a misconception in a lot of circles with "dismounted" and "light". I personally believe they are two very different skill sets and are either all Light or all Mech, when you start crossing over, theres going to be things that slip between the cracks..Anyhow I'm sure this has been discussed at great length in a separate forum, just adding my thoughts.
 

Mountie

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There was conversation a few pages back about reducing the Army to six full-strength infantry battalions until such time as there are sufficient personnel levels to return to nine battalions.  On that topic, what if the Army was to reduce, or rather just reorganize I guess is a better term, into three smaller brigade groups.

The light infantry battalions could use their para companies as the basis for a second battalion of the CSOR in order to maintain two battalions of light/special operations capable infantry and use the remainder of the battalion to bring the 1st and 2nd battalions up to full strenght, including a full combat support company.  The rest of the brigade units should be likewise reduced to two full-strenght sub-units to support only two affiliated battle groups per brigade.  A full-strength but smaller brigade could then be tasked more routinely.  A single CMBG could be responsible for a year's operational deployment.  One battle group at a time for six-months each.  Or, to dream, a whole brigade could be deployed.  While this is still unlikely, it is more likely than ever deploying a whole brigade of three battle groups.  In the Balkans the Army did have two battalion/battle groups and a small logistics battalion and medical unit deployed at one time.  That would be the equivalent of a new, smaller brigade.

Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group
Brigade Headquarters
Command Support Regiment (Similar to US Army's Special Troops Battalion or Australian Command Support Regiment)
- Signal Squadron, Military Intelligence Company & Military Police Platoon
2 x Mechanized Infantry Battalion
- 3 x Mechanized Rifle Companies, Combat Support Company (signals, mortars, assault pioneer, recce and anti-armour platoons) & Administration Company
Cavalry Regiment
- RHQ (forming Brigade ISTAR CC), 2 x Reconnaissance Squadrons & HQ Squadron (and possibly a single tank squadron if you want)
RCHA Regiment
- RHQ (forming Brigade FSCC), 2 x Artillery Battery (6-8 M777's), STA Battery, Air Defence Battery (forming Brigade ASCC) & HQ & Services Battery
Combat Engineer Regiment
- RHQ (forming Brigade ESCC), 2 x Field Engineer Squadrons, Engineer Support Squadron & Administration Squadron
Service Battalion & Field Ambulance would remain basically unchanged just slightly smaller.

Once the Army ever increases in size and acquires more equipment (LAV-IIIs, M777s, etc) theoretically a fourth CMBG should be created.  This would give the Army 8 mechanized infantry battalions and 2 battalions of the CSOR compared to the 6 mechanized infantry and 4 light/CSOR battalions at present.  It would also have 8 recce squadrons, artillery batteries, and field engineer squadrons as compared to the 9 under-strength sub-units of today.  So in the end the Army would have 8 mechanized battle groups evenly divided between four brigade groups which would allow for a better Operational Readiness Cycle and 2 battalions of the CSOR.

The new brigade could be formed in LFAA at Gagetown and recruited primarily from Atlantic Canada and English speaking Quebec (I realizing basing is a whole new topic, but if 1 RCHA and 2 PPCLI were moved to Edmonton could the CTC move to Shilo?? I don't know.  This is more theory that may not be reality) and consist of the following regiments:

3 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group
3 Commmand Support Regiment
1st Battalion, Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada
2nd Battalion, Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada
8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise's)
3rd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery
3 Combat Engineer Regiment
3 Service Battalion
3 Field Ambulance

Although the creation of a fourth brigade seems far fetched right now, there have been many times throughout the post-WW2 Army that new battalions and even brigades have been created, disbanded and transferred to other bases.  Just curious on what anyone thinks of the theory.
 
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All this talk about the comparison of OBG and ABG, how about we see how the OBG works out first.  I know I'm intrested as I just fund out I'm posted to Gagetown this year and I'm want to see what growing pains arise and how it evolves.
 

Infanteer

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Mountie said:
The light infantry battalions could use their para companies as the basis for a second battalion of the CSOR in order to maintain two battalions of light/special operations capable infantry

CSOR is not at "battalion" strength.  As well, I think you'd find the Army reluctant to release 3 Coy's worth of PY's to CANSOFCOM.

Other than that, your post sounds like something I pitched a few pages back.  I want royalties!
 

McG

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Im Not Telling said:
All this talk about the comparison of OBG and ABG, how about we see how the OBG works out first.
What are you, the thought police?  You do know what discussion boards are for, right?

In any case, there are many issues which the OBG experiment will not examine.  Sure it might work to permanently establish an OBG in 2 RCR when the whole rest of the Army is not doing it, but will Bde's properly balanced for ABGs better serve the super bases such as Valcartier, Petawawa & Edmonton?
 

dapaterson

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Infanteer said:
CSOR is not at "battalion" strength.  As well, I think you'd find the Army reluctant to release 3 Coy's worth of PY's to CANSOFCOM.

Other than that, your post sounds like something I pitched a few pages back.  I want royalties!

Point of clarification:  PYs are positions ("Person-Years"); the challenge is to find the P ("Personnel") to fill the PYs.  It's the Ps the Army is trying to hold on to.

Or, to use the preferred NDHQ analogy, PYs are chairs, and Ps are asses to fill the chairs.

 

Mountie

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I was thinking a little more about the big picture I guess.  Whether the light/CSOR battalions belong to the Army or are the Army's contribution to CANSOFCOM isn't really a big deal I don't think. 
 

dapaterson

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Mountie said:
I was thinking a little more about the big picture I guess.  Whether the light/CSOR battalions belong to the Army or are the Army's contribution to CANSOFCOM isn't really a big deal I don't think. 
It's a tremendous issues from a force management perspective.  Does the Army command 9 "normal" infantry bns plus one light bn, meaning that plans can be built around a rotation of 10, or only the 9 normal bns, forcing a cycle of 9?  Is the light bn a one-way flow of personnel in but no one out, meaning a constant drain from the aforementioned nine, or do you still control them and can you thus rotate and post pers from them?  Is the light bn trained and equipped the same as other 9 (in big terms), or do they go out and get jammie toys and build skills that aren't immediately transferable to the other 9 bns?

And many more Qs.  Big picture, the issues of fractured command and control structures are what are eroding the CF right now - too many "Level 1" organizations in DND all looking for CO's drivers and SO 4-7-12-13-9, while the line organizations are being "refined" and "rationalized".
 

Mountie

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I guess I was thinking of the CSOR as more like the Canadian Airborne Regiment where personnel flowed both ways.  In my proposal all of the regular, so to speak, battalions would be mechanized so obviously the CSOR would be organized different.  The proposal was a rotational cycle of 8 battle groups based on the 8 mech battalions with the 2 CSOR battalions which would the be rapid reaction, stand-by units.  The operational tempo for the CSOR battalions could be higher.  Basically the CSOR would be like US Army Ranger battalions. 
 
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In any case, there are many issues which the OBG experiment will not examine.  Sure it might work to permanently establish an OBG in 2 RCR when the whole rest of the Army is not doing it, but will Bde's properly balanced for ABGs better serve the super bases such as Valcartier, Petawawa & Edmonton?

I don't know about Valcatraz or Ed but Pet's no super base, and 2 CMBG seems to stand pretty good as it is minus the fact that 2 SVC BN is not part of Bde leaving out a mass amount of CSS out.  Sure each unit has thier own but most of them get left behind for rear party and they take A,B, or C coy from multiple units.  Of course then you have Aviation assets controled from an other base that are attached to CSOR and not the Bde so you have this great big amazing Bde with holes that still seems to work well.

I think the Idea of the OBG is to establish a perminent first in unit and to extend the ideas of the MEU that has been canceled at this time.  This fills a need for Canada to have a major first responce unit out side of SOF or the Teams that still means you need sections to do advance party and set up the ground lay out and do everything else but you have one stop shopping for the man power issues of needing specialty trades in a unit and all that good stuff.  how ever it gives you what you need in one place allowing the standard Bde (like 2 CMBG)to fall into place after a ground work has been put inplace.  I'm pretty sure it's not Just 2 RCR that will be going through this growing pain as they want (and need) at least two such units on each side of the country if this is going to work.  That said, it goes back to being the thought police,  we're going to haveto see what happens, you can cruch numbers and stats all day but if you don't have the raw facts from doing the actual work your screwed just like anyone else who mistakes theory for fact.  (Not that anyone in here whould actually do that......I hope)
 

McG

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Im Not Telling said:
... 2 CMBG seems to stand pretty good as it is minus the fact that 2 SVC BN is not part of Bde leaving out a mass amount of CSS out ... then you have Aviation assets controled from an other base that are attached to CSOR and not the Bde so you have this great big amazing Bde with holes that still seems to work well.
This is generally why I think ABGs will work in the brigade bases, and (as you've pointed out) there already is real world experience from which to comment on how a Bde should/could be balanced for an ABG model.  What are the benefits to 2 CMBG of having 2 RCHA in the same location?  If the Army went to a mixed ABG/OBG structure, should 1 RCHA be moved to Edmonton & Shilo be designated the home to a second OBG?

Im Not Telling said:
That said, it goes back to being the thought police,  we're going to haveto see what happens, you can cruch numbers and stats all day but if you don't have the raw facts from doing the actual work your screwed just like anyone else who mistakes theory for fact.  (Not that anyone in here whould actually do that......I hope)
It is true that the real world validates the theoretical (or proves it wrong).  However, a good grasp of the theoretical side gives a better likelyhood that one will know what questions need to be asked, what theoretical concepts need to be proven before the whole can be accepted, and which real-world whole-force factors will not be reflected in a single unit experiment.

Mountie said:
I guess I was thinking of the CSOR as more like the Canadian Airborne Regiment where personnel flowed both ways. 
In addition to dapaterson's observations, CSOR is not an infantry unit.  In the Airborne Regiment, infantry men were infantry men.  In CSOR, operators may be infantrymen, stokers, divers, AVN Techs, engineers, cooks, etc.  It does not exist to do the same thing & its training is not aligned toward the same thing as was the Airborne.
 

TheNomad

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Firstly, I have not read the entire thread, but this is a subject I have thought about on several occasions so here is my 2p worth.

Currently the various arms and corps are experts at what they do, and think in terms of what they need to do.

This gives the senior commanders a "golf bag" of assets that they can pick from based on the operational task.  Commanders around the Lt Col level are trained on how to use the extras he might be given for that task, as well as being trained in how to operate within other battle groups.

For example.  The commander of an infantry battalion that forms the base of a battle group is trained on how to use the tanks, artillery, engineers etc. that he has been given to play with.  He also recognises that they are the experts in their field and will listen to their professional advice on how they can best support his aim.

The commander of an infantry company that has been a assigned to a battle group based on a tank regiment knows how best to support the tank commander in achieving his aim.

The current system gives great flexibility at all levels.

If the other route was taken there would be a constant robbing Peter to pay Paul while attempting to create the correct mix for the task.  Furthermore, by keeping for example all the artillery in artillery units and not spreading them about in penny packets, it enables them to retain their artillery first professionalism, as well as retaining economies of scale.
 

PanaEng

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I would just like to add that in a practical level, at least in the initial/formative stages, the OBG model has many challenges.

For example, back in 92 (iirc) 2TP from 2CER was moved to the CAR, as were other units from the various arms. I was not part of the transfer but I can attest that what initially seemed like a great step turned out to cause many problems for the unit and the personnel involved. The troop was not equipped properly - barely the basics, - training suffered and morale went down. For whatever reason, the commanders and the whole support chain in the CAR did not know how to deal with these sub-units that were not infantry and their needs went unresolved.

Perhaps in the long term these issues might have been worked out. However, it serves to highlight the difficulty in creating an OBG organization from existing units without extensive training and awareness of the needs of the different components.

cheers,
Frank
 

Mountie

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I think that if done, which I think it should be, the OBG should be organized more as a mini-brigade group rather than a battalion+.  In this sense the battle group commander would have to be trained extensively in combined arms operations.  The battle group headquarters should also be structures as a miniture brigade headquarters rather than a battalion heaquarters (ie. G1, G2, G3, G4, G5, G6, etc).  As I proposed before the battle group would be numbered along the lines of a brigade, restoring the history of the WW1 and WW2 brigades.  This would allow for a better sense of belong and higher morale.  Rather than being attached to an infantry battalion the support units would be an integral part of the battle group.  Sub-units would take on the unit lineage.  For example,

1 Canadian Mechanized Battle Group
1 CMBG Headquarters
1 Command Support Squadron (signal troop, military intelligence troop, military police section, admin troop to support the squadron and BG HQ)
1 Company, PPCLI
2 Company, PPCLI
3 Company, PPCLI
1 Squadron, LdSH (RC)
A Battery, RCHA
11 Combat Engineer Squadron
1 Service Company
1 Field Ambulance Platoon

This would make the battle group gell as one more than units being added to an infantry battalion I would think. 
 

TangoTwoBravo

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Mountie said:
I think that if done, which I think it should be, the OBG should be organized more as a mini-brigade group rather than a battalion+.  In this sense the battle group commander would have to be trained extensively in combined arms operations.  The battle group headquarters should also be structures as a miniture brigade headquarters rather than a battalion heaquarters (ie. G1, G2, G3, G4, G5, G6, etc). 

What we call three infantry companies, a tank squadron, and artillery battery, an engineer squadron a CSS sub-unit and its HQ is, in my view, not the critical issue.  I would argue that today's "battle group" commanders are already trained extensively in combined arms operations. 

A Canadian battalion-sized organization on today's battlefield may well have a larger HQ element than it did in the past with some coordination centres that would have normally been thought of as Brigade level.

Naming conventions aside, I see the following issues remaining:

a.   Generation of the various sub-units.  I would argue that armoured, artillery and engineer sub-units benefit from belonging to a homogenous unit.  You can have the odd independent sub-unit kicking around, but the branch remains healthy by having units (in my opinion).

b.   Task Tailoring.  Permanently creating a combined arms unit may lose its argued benefits when the pre-determined task tailoring does not match the actual situation.  Those combined arms wizards of yore (the Germans in World War II) had combined arms Panzer Divisions, but inside those were homogenous Regiments composed of homogenous Battalions.  They mixed and matched according to the situation.  They belonged to the same Division and had a shared esprit de corps.  This is something that I think our CMBGs have arguably done well.

Cheers
 

vonGarvin

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I agree with you, T2B, in that having effectively manned brigade groups is preferable to permanently manned battlegroups. The problem, of course, is that our CMBGs today are terribly undermanned, with way too many recce squadrons, and not enough tank squadrons, not enough fire support assets, too few infantrymen, and so on and so forth.
 

Old Sweat

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We spent more than four decades screwing around with our force structure, and not because we thought it was a good idea. Our structure got hacked, mutilated and unsupersized every few years for all sorts of reasons, but mostly to free up money for other purposes and/or because somebody had a better idea. That we were able to retain anything is a bit of a miracle, and says wonders about our collective ability to make a sow's ear out of a silk purse.

We can't fix it overnight, but it is fixable, if we keep basic principles in mind. To my mind, an OBG sacrifices too much flexibility and cohesion in pursuit of a specialized organization disguised as a general purpose combat capability.

This may be straying off the track, but the large national support element (and no unit and sub-unit echelons) that deployed to Afghanistan is an optimized organization. I submit it has not survived contact with the enemy. Is there a lesson here for those who would optimize other organizations?
 

Infanteer

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Tango2Bravo said:
a.   Generation of the various sub-units.  I would argue that armoured, artillery and engineer sub-units benefit from belonging to a homogenous unit.  You can have the odd independent sub-unit kicking around, but the branch remains healthy by having units (in my opinion).

Agreed.  I would add that one of the aspects of a professional standing Army is the host of "garrison" things such as career management.  Any case

b.   Task Tailoring.  Permanently creating a combined arms unit may lose its argued benefits when the pre-determined task tailoring does not match the actual situation.  Those combined arms wizards of yore (the Germans in World War II) had combined arms Panzer Divisions, but inside those were homogenous Regiments composed of homogenous Battalions.  They mixed and matched according to the situation.  They belonged to the same Division and had a shared esprit de corps.  This is something that I think our CMBGs have arguably done well.

Agreed in part that the ABG may be preferred to the OBG as it allows for more flexibility when force generation calls for a different set of "pieces" to build the team.  However, I would argue that the CMBG's haven't done the greatest job of shared esprit de corps - that is still maintained at the Regimental/Branch level and that is where all our identity is organized around.  I believe that the marriage of Regimental affiliation to a single trade will be the biggest stumbling block for the Regimental system in the future as the combined-arms functions get pushed down to lower and lower levels....
 

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I'm curious why so many think that permanent combined arms battle group are not a good idea for the independent sub-units?  There are plenty of examples of this that have worked.  Through the Cold War German panzer battalions had one panzer grenadier company and visa versa.  This was a permanent organization not a battle group/task force reorganization.  From the Cold War through to the present US Army Armoured Cavalry Regiments have been organized with three combined arms cavalry squadrons (US battalion) equipped with three cavalry troops (US Company), a tank company and an artillery battery.  Current US Army heavy battalions are a mix of two tank companies, two mechanized infantry companies and one engineer company.  The US Army Future Combat System battalions that are to be formed sometime in the next decade or two are likewise organized with two direct fire support companies and two mechanized infantry companies.

As armies shrink in size they have traditionally reduced the level at which a combined arms force is maintained.  As we see in another thread the diffusion of combined arms that in the days of Napoleon the level of combined arms shifted to the corps.  During WW1 trench warfare the corps remained the typical combined arms formation.  During WW2 the division was typically the lowest combined arms unit, even though Commonweatlth armoured brigades and independent US tank battalions were attached to their respective infantry divisions rather than being permanently organized within.  During the Cold War the major powers used the division as the basic combined arms formation.  The smaller armies such as Canada shifted to the brigade-level for permanently organized combined arms formations (ie. CMBG).  As armies continued to downsize and the nature of warfare changed the major powers such as the US, UK, French, German, Italian, and other armies shifted to the brigade-level for combined arms.  In the US Army, the largest western army, this is called the brigade combat team.  Within the BCT even some battalions are permanently organized as combined arms battalions.  So while the major armies shifted from division to brigade-based combined arms, the smaller armies such as Canada should shift from the brigade to the battle group level of permanently organized combined arms.

Other than the brigade in Germany, Canada has not deployed a brigade group on operations overseas since the Korean War.  So why are we maintaining the brigade as the basic combined arms unit.  Canada has always deployed battle groups or battalion groups.  So it would make more sense to organize in peace time as we organize for operations.  As far as the battle group structure not being ideal for every deployment, lets be honest, the majority of battle groups deployed in the past twenty years have been organized the same.  Lets go back to the early 1990's and Croatia, Bosnia, Somalia to the present Afghanistan mission; almost all organizations have been based on 3-4 mechanized infantry companies, a Cougar/Coyote/Leopard squadron, an engineer squadron, an artillery battery (not in the UN mission to the Balkans, but established with the SFOR mission), and a logistics/medical/military police support element.  This basic structure has remained the same, so permanently organizing as a OBG and generating different unit during those rare occassions that don't require a typical battle group would be easier than trying to generate a battle group every time.

The permanent battle group organization allows for a more cohesive unit and better morale.  Soldiers maintain their traditional regimental family and history but their every day family becomes the battle group.
 

TangoTwoBravo

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The US cavalry organizations you mention were composed primarily of Armor soldiers, although some were indeed scouts and other tankers(they all had the 19 MOS indicator).  The only infantrymen that I knew of were the guys manning the mortars in the companies.  Depending on the organization there were artillerymen present (the ACR squadrons), but that was based on knowing the expected tactical tasks of those units.  The Div Cav guys had aviators but no guns.  That was a real special case unit.  I can't speak to the Cold War Germans.  The US Army is indeed moving towards combined arms groups.  We will see where that will go I suppose.

Regarding battle groups, their composition has actually gone through lots of changes (in terms up sub-units - never mind the little things).  Would what is sent to Kandahar in 2009 be what we send to another theatre in 2015?  I am not sure.

Along with that, if we currently have to bring in infantry sub-units from other bases to get battle groups up to strength to deploy, what is the big push to combine the arms permanently? I see some other dragons to slay.

If you do group permanently, what does it look like?  Nine battle groups with nine artillery batteries, nine tank squadrons, nine recce Squadrons and nine engineer squadrons?

With what we have today the battle group comes together in varying degrees up to a year out from deployment.  Given the yearly APS shuffle of a professional army, I am not sure if permanent combined arms groups will achieve the added cohesion that they promise.
 
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