Tag Archives: army

JAAT

Joint Air Attack Tactics.

I posted this a couple years ago, I think. Later we’re going to look at some doctrinal stuff that’s coming up, and how the past provides the intellectual framework for this latest initiative. How is that relevant? JAAT was associated with AirLand Battle, which itself was closely associated with Assault Breaker, which is the model that Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work is invoking in his call for a Raid Breaker.

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Movement to Contact

One of the key battlefield tasks is avoiding being surprised by the enemy. The way to do that is to maintain contact with him. If contact is lost, it should be reestablished as soon as practical.

The way to do this is known as Movement to Contact. As the video explains, this is an offensive task. In effect, it’s something like a hasty attack, except you don’t really know where you’ll be conducting the attack.

Mind you, careful analysis of the terrain, and a fair appreciation of the enemy order of battle can often give you a pretty good idea where contact is likely. 

A doctrinal  here- to fix an enemy is to place sufficient fires upon him as to preclude him from either disengaging, or maneuvering.

While the video is geared toward the Combined Arms Battalion, Movement to Contact is a mission that can be conducted by light forces as well. Indeed, even Attack Aviation does it. The tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) differ somewhat, but the fundamentals are the same.

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Boyd, and Patterns of Conflict, Now with Video!

To say that John Boyd has a following would be an understatement. There’s the followers, and then there’s the cult. I’m a follower.

Jason Brown, studying Boyd during his professional military education, not only read everything he could find on Boyd, he also uncovered video of his Patterns of Conflict briefing. For you who aren’t terribly familiar with him, Boyd didn’t write essays or white papers, or books. He gave presentations. That had a great impact on the audience, and was of immediate impact. But it also meant the written record of Boyd’s thinking was somewhat lacking.

Several years ago, I tracked down a rare video of Boyd delivering “Patterns of Conflict,” the famous (and lengthy) briefing that framed his theory of warfare. At the urging of some junior officers (and a little technical coaching), I recently uploaded the video to YouTube. While my views on Boyd have matured over the years, the videos reveal the sage discourse I sought from him, as well as prudent counsel appropriate for today.

 

I think it would be fair to say the Marine Corps bought into Boydian concepts, most importantly the OODA Loop, more than any other service. And that’s fine.

My frustration has been that over the years, not a few cult members have chided the Army for failing to simply rewrite all its doctrine based on Boyd’s OODA Loop briefing.  Mind you, this was back in the day when AirLand Battle was still, essentially, the operative doctrine guiding the US Army.

Almost invariably, further questioning of the cultist would reveal that while they could say the words Observe, Orient, Decide and Act, they knew little or nothing of AirLand Battle (ALB), or its evolution from the previous doctrine, Active Defense.

There is little evidence that Boyd had anything to do, even indirectly, with the genesis of ALB. Interestingly, though, we can see some very clear parallels between the OODA Loop and the fundamentals of ALB. The fundamental concepts of Initiative, Depth, Agility, and Synchronization easily harmonize with the concepts of the OODA Loop.

That’s not to say OODA Loop and ALB were competing, but rather that a grounded understanding of the OODA Loop and Patterns of Conflict made grasping the true precepts of ALB much easier, and led to better implementation.

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Spartan Pegasus- Airborne Ops in the Great White North

Of my basic training platoon at Ft. Benning, maybe half of us received orders overseas. About half of those went to Germany. The rest of us were split fairly evenly between Hawaii (where I went) and Alaska.

I remember laughing at one fellow receiving orders to Alaska, and was a tad surprised to learn he was delighted with the orders. Me? I don’t do well with cold. But some folks do.

Since World War II, the US Army has mantained a significant presence in Alaska. Among the nice things about it, there is plenty of space for training. Of course, the weather and terrain means that the units there are somewhat uniquely equipped.

I’m guessing the troops are from 3-509PIR, but I don’t know that for sure. The funny looking little vehicle in the heavy drop is an M973 Small Unit Support Vehicle, basically a BV206.

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The Battle Against Booze

Carl Forsling has a piece in Task & Purpose lamenting the unrelenting war on booze in the services.

Every so often after work, I stop by the officers’ club at my base to see what’s going on. Without fail, unless I go to meet up with specific people or there’s a special event, the place is deader than Elvis. I’ll wave at the bartender and awkwardly look around as if I’m looking for someone, then make a quick about face.

With few exceptions, this is the way most military clubs are. They do a decent lunch business. Some enlisted clubs bring in decent numbers with pool and sports television, but none are eagerly anticipated social venues at the end of a long week. On some bases, there’s so little business that all the clubs have been combined to make what must be the most awkward social scenario possible.

So what? There are a million other places to buy beer. Why should the military club be sacred?

Josephus Daniels banned booze on US Navy ships in 1916. With a few very rare exceptions that holds true today. And General Order Number One for US troops deployed to Afghanistan, and before that, in Iraq, prohibited the possession and consumption of alcohol. And for the most part, I’m fairly OK with that.

Of course, contrast that the the US  ration in World War II, which, while honored more in the breach than actually being adhered to, called for two bottles of 3.2 beer per man per day, at least when not in combat.

By the time I joined in the mid 1980s, the services were already cracking down on DUIs and problem drinkers in the ranks. Any time you have a population of young people, especially young men, you’ll have a percentage that are simply bound to become alcoholics.

My first duty station was Hawaii. The drinking age when I arrived was 18. I was 19. But Hawaii raised its drinking age to 21, with no grandfather clause. There were a handful of establishments downtown that pretty much ignored the law and served under 21. And at then Wheeler AFB next door to my base, the NCO club was open to E-4 and above, and the base commander had established 18 as the drinking age.* Not surprisingly, my compatriots and I went to Wheeler fairly often. And while technically the drinking age on my post was 21, our chain of command never raised an eyebrow at troops actually in the barracks drinking underage, so long as they weren’t disruptive or otherwise disciplinary problems, or showing up for duty drunk. Think of it as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell for alcohol.

When I was in Germany, of course, the drinking age was 16 or so. At any rate, if you were old enough to be in the Army, you were old enough to drink, legally. There were annoying restrictions on the amount of alcohol you could have in the barracks. One greatly annoying restriction was that most commanders prohibited the possession of hard alcohol in the barracks. Which, I prefer whiskey to beer, and always have. And right there on my ration card was an allowance for up to five bottles of hootch per month!

And when we went to Grafenwoerhr for  gunnery, most nights, we’d return to our cantonment huts in time for dinner. After dinner, the mess hall would sell good German beer, up to two bottles per man, with proceeds going to the unit Morale, Welfare and Recreation fund.

That’s to say nothing of the once vibrant Officer’s Open Mess (O’Club) at NAS Whidbey where I grew up. To say the junior officers there might have had a bit of fun on the bar would be an understatement.

But today, the Carrie Nation neo-prohibitionists have won. The mere thought of allowing, much less providing, alcohol at a command sponsored event makes some commanders tremble in fear. If your unit has a unfortunate string of alcohol related incidents, your chances of promotion and future command are in doubt. As Forsling notes:

…a few guys crapped their pants and now the whole military wears diapers.

To flash back to my first unit, in Hawaii, every Friday afternoon, after the close of business, and having been released for the day, my First Sergeant would sit on the back lanai with a case of beer on ice in a cooler. We were welcome to walk up, grab a can, and shoot the breeze, listening like eager pups to the old dog tell tales of Vietnam. Doctrine Man has a great post on mentoring over a cup of coffee. This was mentoring over a beer. More than just war stories were told. The love of the service, tales of good leadership and bad, hints for life and other wisdom was shared in an environment that, while military courtesy was still strictly observed, was far more relaxed than during the duty day. I probably learned more on the back lanai over a can of Budweiser than I ever did from any NCO Professional Development breakout session

 

*State drinking age laws technically don’t apply on federal installations. Instead, post commanders issue a punitive policy. Almost universally that policy limits the drinking age to that of the locality where the post is located, but I have seen exceptions.

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No, the Army doesn’t want the A-10.

We argued that some time ago the Army simply wasn’t interested in taking over the A-10 should the Air Force attempt to divest itself of the plane.

And before you say “well, fine, give ‘em to the Army” or Marines, or what have you, understand, neither service wants the A-10 so badly they they are willing to pick up those associated costs, nor incur the major doctrinal upheaval integration of the A-1o would entail. That doesn’t even get into where the Army or Marines would find the manpower to operate the Warthog. It simply will not happen.

And now, Army Secretary McHugh has made that official.

The U.S. Army has no interest in taking over the Air Force’s fleet of A-10 attack planes, even if it would save the venerable Cold War-era aircraft from the bone yard.

The service’s top civilian, Army Secretary John McHugh, rejected the idea of accepting hand-me-down A-10 Warthogs from the Air Force.

“No chance,” he said during a breakfast meeting with reporters on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. “That’s not even been a topic of casual conversation.”

“With our own aircraft fleet we’re taking some pretty dramatic steps to reconfigure and become more affordable, and the A-10 mission is not something we considered. That’s an Air Force mission as it should be and I’m sure the Air Force feels the same way,” McHugh said.

The Marines? They’ve leveraged the future of not just Marine Aviation, but the entire Marine Corps on the F-35B. They want nothing to do with the A-10.

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A Brief History of Precision Guided Artillery Munitions in the US Army

In the 1970s, faced with the specter of thousands of Soviet tanks possibly rushing through the Fulda Gap, the Army was looking intently for ways to rapidly kill large numbers of tanks.  The TOW missile, the M1 tank, and host of other weapons were developed to face this threat.*

One development looked at the revolution in accuracy that Laser Guided Bombs had shown in the late stages of the Vietnam war, and concluded that a laser guided artillery shell would be just the thing to plink tanks. Normal artillery can make life difficult for tank formations, but the odds of actually destroying a tank are pretty slim with traditional artillery. But a laser guided 155mm artillery round, especially one with a shaped charge 6.1” diameter warhead, would destroy any tank in the world.

But there’s a big difference in the robustness required of electronics that will fly aboard an airplane, and be dropped, versus those that have to withstand the stupendous accelerations of being fired out of a gun tube.

Still, by the late 1970s, and early 1980s, American industry managed to field the M712 Copperhead laser guided 155mm Cannon Launched Guided Projectile. Copperhead required a forward observer equipped with a laser designator, and a clear line of sight to the target, not to mention reliable communications with the firing battery.

Beyond that, Copperhead actually cost a ton of money more than was originally expected. Because Copperhead was so expensive, tank killing by artillery fell instead to DPICM, or Dual Purpose, Improved Conventional Munitions. DPICM was essentially the clusterbomb of artillery. A shell was merely a carrier for a host of submunitions that would be scattered over a target area. Many of those munitions were small shaped charge warheads that could usually penetrate the thin top armor of Soviet tanks.

But Copperhead did work, and it was useful for certain very high value targets, and so it remained in the inventory, and indeed saw combat use in Desert Storm, and even as late as the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

M712 Copperhead approaches a target tank

For almost 30 years, that’s where the state of the art in precision guided artillery stagnated.

But much as the advent of the Laser Guided Bomb inspired the Copperhead, so to did the advent of the GPS/INS guided JDAM bomb inspire the next stage in precision artillery.

First up with the GPS guided G-MLRS 270mm Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, which replace the DPICM warhead of a conventional MLRS rocket with a unitary warhead of about 250 pounds, and a guidance kit that gave it the ability to strike within just a few meters of its intended target at ranges of up to 70 kilometers.

http://www.lockheedmartin.com/content/lockheed/us/products/GuidedUnitaryMLRSRocket/_jcr_content/product_image.img.jpg/1375720371235.jpg

Not surprisingly, the same technology was applied to a 155mm artillery shell, resulting the in the M982 Excalibur. The Excalibur 155mm guided projectile has been in operational use for over 7 years now. Excalibur is essentially a GPS guided missile launched from a gun tube. It both extends the range of artillery, and increases the accuracy.

XM982 Excalibur inert.jpg

But the Excalibur is fairly expensive. The entire projectile is a precision weapon. What was really wanted was a guidance kit that could be applied to existing stocks of conventional artillery ammunition to provide it was precision capability.

First up was the AMPI, Accelerated Mortar Precision Initiative, also known as the MGK, or Mortar Guidance Kit. By replacing the nose fuse of a conventional 120mm mortar round with an innovative GPS guidance system, the traditionally less than precise mortar system suddenly became capable of dropping the first round within 5-10 meters of the aim point.

It wasn’t a great leap to transform the MGK into a similar guided fuse for 155mm shells.

Unguided, conventional artillery will continue to have a place on the battlefield. But for many applications, both in the current Counter Insurgency fights, and in possible future near peer engagements, precision artillery has better effects, is a lesser logistical burden, reduced collateral damage, and can safely be used closer to friendly troops.

 

 

 

*By the way, the Air Force also spent a lot of time and money developing weapons and sensors for this very same role.

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