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"How Strong is the US Military today?" Topic


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Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP26 Oct 2021 1:28 p.m. PST

A couple of years ago we were told by the President a number of times that the US military had been completely rebuilt and was stronger than ever.

Since I recently became interested in this board, I have heard a variety of opinions on military powers around the globe. I am wondering what improvements were made to US Forces, other than the Space Force? And where do you think we really stand with the other big powers since the rebuild, as far as overall strength and specific needs?

doc mcb26 Oct 2021 2:10 p.m. PST

Hope I'm wrong, but I think we have become very weak. Please prove me wrong.

arealdeadone26 Oct 2021 2:21 p.m. PST

From what I understand there was no radical changes to USAF procurement or capability during that time.

USN is deteriorating due to issues with new ships, lack of maintenance facilities, lack of ship building capacity etc. All of this is unchanged from pre-Trump era.

The upside is they did decide to integrate new anti-shipping missiles though precious few have been acquired.


Army – no idea really. Nominally from the little I understand not much has changed in US Army.

USMC – have given up on contested amphibious assaults and are introducing massive cutbacks whilst introducing a strategy last tried by Japanese in 1942-45.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP26 Oct 2021 3:49 p.m. PST

We don't appear to be especially weak, although the comments here have led me to believe otherwise in recent weeks. We remain strong in air power as far as I can tell.

I ask in part because of China. I would expect a conflict with them to be more covert, since we have been dealing with cyber incursions for some time. But how do they actually match up with us in military power beyond the large number of personnel?

Nick Bowler26 Oct 2021 4:32 p.m. PST

The US is in a really bad position militarly. The actual US forces are as strong as at any time. But the damage done to allies and potential allies means that in future conflicts the US will have to carry the burden alone, unlike say gulf war 1 where the number of allies was large.

arealdeadone26 Oct 2021 4:57 p.m. PST

Nick,

The allies do themselves no favours.


Look at Taiwan – military is collapsing due to lack of interest in serving in the military. Units are down 20-40% on manpower.


Or anything in Europe – military procurement is politicised and basically a jobs creation scheme/crony capitalism whilst each years sees overall cuts to capabilities.

Even when new equipment is acquired, numbers are slashed. Eg Belgium is replacing its remaining 60 F-16s with only 34 F-35s. Czech Republic is looking at replacing 25 helicopters including 15 Mi-35 Hinds with a measly 12 (8 x UH-1Y, 4 X AH-1Z).

Or Australia whose new AUKUS agreement is garbage and will see Australia relying on 6 ancient conventional submarines to 2040s or even 2050s by some estimates before new nuke boats arrive (realistically Collins should have started to be withdrawn from 2035)!

The US is in a bad shape but the western allies are in even poorer condition.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP26 Oct 2021 5:49 p.m. PST

Yes, I have heard that our traditional allies in Europe are not holding up well in terms of equipment.

Despite Afghanistan, I would not expect these allies to dump us based on that outcome. They are nowhere near as angry as some of us are about it. And it makes no sense when it comes to actually choosing sides if the global stakes are high. As for potential allies, the trust issue runs both ways.

So we have not rebuilt after all? Does it depend on the type of conflict? Are we strong in some ways, weak in others? How does China compare in the air with us?

smithsco26 Oct 2021 5:56 p.m. PST

I don't think the US has the staying power in a conventional war as we picture it today due to cutbacks. My wife's cousin's husband is a retired air force col. who worked in r&d and then became a civilian scientist for the USAF after retiring. He couldn't give me details for obvious reasons but he said the plan for the future and all of the classified tech we don't ever even hint at is designed to fight a short, brutal conventional war because the military believes that WWIII will be a matter of days before one side or the other has suffered such drastic loses in ships and planes that they will be forced to bow out.

Personal logo aegiscg47 Supporting Member of TMP26 Oct 2021 6:00 p.m. PST

China still has limited power projection capabilities, while the U.S. can project power into any area on the planet. The mistake a lot of people make when analyzing these kinds of things is that they compare what's happening today to the Cold War. The problem there is that the armed forces of every nation have shrunk quite a bit. For example, most of Russia's tanks are in storage and their combat brigades are now scattered around the country. They would telegraph their intentions a long way off (invading Poland, Baltic States, etc.) as you would see hundreds and hundreds of trains marshaling equipment and personnel into an area from thousands of miles away.

Fleets are smaller, divisions have been replaced by brigades, countries are refurbishing aircraft from the 80s and 90s instead of buying new types (Israel makes a killing off of this), and basically, everyone's armed forces are nowhere near the size they were in the 70s-90s. What's left, particularly the most modern equipment, is pretty lethal, so a war between the U.S. and allies vs. China is going to be pretty intense and by the end of a few weeks there simply won't be enough replacements(weapons, ships, vehicles, aircraft, etc.) to carry the war forward and something would get worked out.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP26 Oct 2021 6:28 p.m. PST

This makes sense, aegiscg47, and is very interesting. It also makes me wonder if other kinds of warfare may come to replace conventional forces as the main thrust of conflict. Cyber, and other less obvious weapons.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP26 Oct 2021 6:29 p.m. PST

And how does a major war with China not go nuclear at some point?

nsolomon9926 Oct 2021 7:25 p.m. PST

Still strong enough, for the moment, or we would've seen Putin overrun the Ukraine and Xi crush Taiwan already.

The issues of allies is an interesting one since probably only South Korea and Japan have modern militaries worth factoring in … and India has numbers, of course. But the 4 years of the previous administration did lots of damage to the network of global alliances and I'm not sure trust has been fully restored.

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian26 Oct 2021 7:52 p.m. PST

"Heritage Foundation Ranks Air Force and Space Force as ‘Weak' in New Report" – link

arealdeadone26 Oct 2021 8:45 p.m. PST

I don't think the US has the staying power in a conventional war as we picture it today due to cutbacks.

smithsco,

I'd agree with this. The modern US military would be unable to deploy a force of the size that went in against Iraq in 1991 – 9 reinforced divisions (regular army today is 10), 627 Air Force tactical fighters, 95 strategic bombers, 7 carrier groups.

China still has limited power projection capabilities, while the U.S. can project power into any area on the planet.

Except the Chinese power is focused in western Pacific where the fighting will occur whilst the US needs to maintain reserves elsewhere ie to deter Russia and keep a hold on middle east.


The mistake a lot of people make when analyzing these kinds of things is that they compare what's happening today to the Cold War. The problem there is that the armed forces of every nation have shrunk quite a bit. For
Fleets are smaller, divisions have been replaced by brigades, countries are refurbishing aircraft from the 80s and 90s instead of buying new types (Israel makes a killing off of this), and basically, everyone's armed forces are nowhere near the size they were in the 70s-90s.

Agree with this.


However the big issue is a lot of allied forces are now token only and have no combat capability at all.

I once raised the issue of Belgium whose whole army is 5 light infantry battalions. So they can maybe deploy a 1-2 understrength battalions without much support and this would result in considerable strain on their military.

Same applies to nearly all of Europe- if Hungary deploys a single brigade, it's committed 50% of its forces.


If it commits 6 aircraft, that's half its fight fleet!

In essence all these little forces are undeployable in a real shooting war.

So with NATO as it is, USA has to allocate a lot of power in Europe (even if based in USA).

The SE Asian countries are in just as bad and precarious a position – generally lots of paramilitary and constabulary units but precious little actual combat power.


What's left, particularly the most modern equipment, is pretty lethal, so a war between the U.S. and allies vs. China is going to be pretty intense and by the end of a few weeks there simply won't be enough replacements(weapons, ships, vehicles, aircraft, etc.) to carry the war forward and something would get worked out.

Agreed here.

example, most of Russia's tanks are in storage and their combat brigades are now scattered around the country. They would telegraph their intentions a long way off (invading Poland, Baltic States, etc.) as you would see hundreds and hundreds of trains marshaling equipment and personnel into an area from thousands of miles away.

If it's one thing the Russians are good at it's mass mobilisation as indicated by a variety of exercises and also Ukraine. These have often been at corps strength level with multiple divisions/brigades.

NATO and USA doesn't have same rapid mobilisation mechanisms. For Europe mobilising a division sized unit in 30 days is viewed as "a rapid response." By that stage the Russians are eating kransky's in Warsaw.

Russia has also reintroduced divisions as the basic unit.

From what I can see there is currently 13 divisions in the Russian army:

2 tank divisions
7 motor rifle divisions
3 airborne divisions
1 mountain division (also part of airborne)

These are proper divisions and not paper divisions like British 1st Division which is merely an administrative grouping for a large number of light infantry battalions and without any support.

Independent brigades still exist but many are being transformed into divisions.

Russia also maintains corps and armies HQs so it can organise and wield larger forces.

The US still has 4 Crops (I, III, V and XVIII Airborne) but the rest of NATO has lost the ability to operate at anything higher than brigade level and even that would be a strenuous proposition for many alliance members!


---

Not sure about Chinese Army. I know they've been downsizing and I actually doubt the Chinese Army has any combat value at all.. It's equipment is poor, by all accounts its commanders are garbage and incapable of combined arms and the command structure seems extremely overloaded – instead of corps and divisions, they have armies and brigades.

Each army commander has have anywhere up to 15-20 direct reporting brigades which is extremely hard work especially when each brigade is terribly lacking in capabilities.

And each Chinese brigade is bloated compared to a US one -eg 4-6 manoeuvre battalions instead of only 3 for a US BCT yet the Chinese brigades have significantly poorer logistics despite their larger size.

I don't think the weak PLA ground force matters as much unless USA invades China. The main fight is in the air and on the sea.

arealdeadone26 Oct 2021 8:52 p.m. PST

Still strong enough, for the moment, or we would've seen Putin overrun the Ukraine and Xi crush Taiwan already.

Err no – Putin and Xi don't want to wear the economic cost of war. The Russians proved they could take over Crimea without the US so much as farting in their general direction.


The issues of allies is an interesting one since probably only South Korea and Japan have modern militaries worth factoring in … and India has numbers, of course. But the 4 years of the previous administration did lots of damage to the network of global alliances and I'm not sure trust has been fully restored.

South Korea and Japan's support of any US war against China are unknowns. South Korea plays with both Chinese and Russians (eg development of IADS) when it suits them. Japan has an ageing populace and one that is still wedded to its pacifist constitution.

India's military is in decline due to Indian procurement incompetence and corruption.

Eg they estimate they need 42 fighter squadrons (820 aircraft) to defend against both China and Pakistan.


They have 30 and some of those are scheduled to be phased out as they withdraw ancient MiG-21s. And squadrons with newer aircraft often number less than 20 – eg Mirage 2000 serves in 3 squadrons but there is only 50 aircraft instead of minimum of 60.


Qualitatively new Indian aircraft being introduced are mainly garbage Tejas domestic fighter whose early versions aren't as capable as their upgraded Mig-21S and whose production is painful (only about 20 initial operational capability aircraft delivered). Only 36 state of the art Rafales were acquired instead of 126 and licence produced Su-30 fleet is often barely operational due to India screwing up its logistics.

Most of the Indian force is obsolete by 2030 – 50 x Mirage 2000 (despite belated upgrade), the piece of crap Mig-29 (100+ in service with Navy and Air Force), Jaguar (100+ in service), and the 100 odd Tejas they may have inducted by that stage if HAL can get its act together). This assumes 120+ remaining MiG-21s are retired as planned! That leaves about 240 Su-30s and 36 Rafales as only modern aircraft and even those are getting long in the tooth or approaching obsolescence as Chinese adopt J-20 and possibly J-31 enter service en masse).


If we look at army and navy there are similar stories.

arealdeadone26 Oct 2021 9:05 p.m. PST

Oh and just found this – was curious as to how many J-20 stealth fighters the Chinese have inducted into service.

Turns out estimates are up to 150+ aircraft in service with 4 regiments. A Chinese regiment usually has 24 aircraft so 4 x 24 = 108 with remainder being reserves or test articles.

link

I doubt these are as capable as an F-22 or F-35A even upgraded F-15C/D or F-16C/D but they could be lethal against tankers and awacs and certainly a match against Indian Su-30, Mirage let alone the junk heap MiG-29s, MiG-21s etc.

Personal logo David Manley Supporting Member of TMP27 Oct 2021 12:46 a.m. PST

"Or anything in Europe – military procurement is politicised and basically a jobs creation scheme/crony capitalism "

And the US isn't?????

backstab27 Oct 2021 12:46 a.m. PST

The problem, arealdeadone, is that Tankers and AWACS are escorted .. I'd doubt that a Chinese pilot would even get into range before they are shot down

arealdeadone27 Oct 2021 2:57 a.m. PST

Backstabbing you should check out the RAND studies on the matter. The Chinese can flood the airspace, lose more jets to F-22s but in the end all F-22s are lost due to tankers being shot down.


And this is a scenario with only Su-27/J-11s not J-20s with J-16 EW and AWACs of their own in support.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP27 Oct 2021 3:13 a.m. PST

Beware of underestimating.. remember Japanese junk air with half blind pilots with huge round glasses in 1941…
Ru and possibly China has a tradition of pretending / maskirovka. You want to think they are junk, they will oblige you. Like in 1942…
I saw Chinese tanks in a competition,they won by far and the whole thing looked very pro. (I was in a tank last century too ).

In 1914 the general concensus was that it woukd be over by xmas. Well…
Politics, corruption and spineless ideology has hammered down armies of the west, as part of the old world to erase.

Legion 427 Oct 2021 9:11 a.m. PST

I have to agree with much of what has been posted here. The US Military is not as "combat ready" as it once was or should be. The same is the situation with NATO …

However, IMO the PRC/CCP & Russia is in no position to go to war with the USA[and maybe NATO?] at this point for a number of reasons. But if we have learned nothing from history e.g. in both World Wars plus the Korean War, we have to be combat ready at all times. Not having to play "catch-up" after attacked, in one way or another.

Of course if nukes are used by anyone all bets are off. But I don't think this will happen anytime soon. AFAIK none of the states that have nukes are ready to use them to start/end a conflict. At least at this time.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP27 Oct 2021 10:12 a.m. PST

Pushing the Russians hard into the arms of China, when actually otherwise it would not be their interest,is the biggest mistake.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP27 Oct 2021 10:29 a.m. PST

Per Bill's linked article, Biden's defense budget provides a 13 per cent increase for next year. More F-35s?

shadoe0127 Oct 2021 11:15 a.m. PST

The French experience in Spain during the Napoleonic wars is an interesting case study in how involvement in counter-insurgency degrades an army's ability to fight in conventional combat operations. One sees this over and over when the French troops, many of them veteran units, seem to be inept when facing regular British, Portuguese and Spanish troops in Wellington's army. So very unlike the tactical flexibility one reads about during the Jena-Auerstadt campaign. One of those hidden costs to the GWoT.

But all is not lost – read this Rand report on the re-vitalization of the Russian armed forces:

link

FYI – for a long time I've thought a brigade size formation makes a lot of sense as the formation for maneuver warfare. When modern mechanized divisions have 20,000 +/- vehicles that doesn't seem like operationally maneuverable to me.

arealdeadone27 Oct 2021 12:21 p.m. PST

Tortorella spending more money doesn't necessarily mean more capability especially if it funds bureaucracy or investing investing over priced weapons that never get delivered or don't offer capabilities.


Shadoe01 I think the experiences of WW2 show that divisions and whole armies can be manoeuvrable

Then there is the issue of command. The more direct reports the more difficult it is to command. I am sure a Russian corps/army commanders with 2 divisions and a handful of other units finds his command a lot easier and simpler than a Chinese commander with 15 independent brigades. The Chinese model requires a lot more micromanagement than the Russian or older divisional ones.


Then combat strength and resilience – divisions with 150000-20000 men has far more combat capability and resilience than a brigade with 5000 men.


Not to mention geographic coverage.

Of course such things are all largely irrelevant in policing actions in Afghanistan and Iraq where actions were seldom larger than batalloon level and brigades covered massive geogrpqhic distances and had very little conventional combat power.


Indeed the west acknowledges that divisions have value hence US Army still has 16-18 including ANG, German Army had 3, Britain tries to maintain 1 (second 1 is purely administrative), Greece has 5 and Poland has 4.


The Western militaries that no longer have divisions are those whose armies now number less than a division or those who have nearly completely committed to low to medium ntensity expeditionary warfare against low threat third world powers or terrorists.

arealdeadone27 Oct 2021 12:48 p.m. PST

I also think the west needs to look at what has happened on Azernaijam-Armenia war and to lesser degree fighting between Turks and Syrians in Ibdib province.

In both cases the losses were huge. Armenia lost more tanks than combined Germany and France operational fleets. Same with artillery and other vehicles.

Armies comprised of a couple of brigades that can deploy only a batallion or so have no place on this kind of war.

Note other than Fallujah and and couple of exceptions, the west has not fought in high intensity suggests against a determined
or potential high threat opponent since Iraq in 1991.

The low scale low fighting low casualty wars of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are not great lessons for militaries wishing to take on China Or Russia.

Irish Marine Supporting Member of TMP27 Oct 2021 12:58 p.m. PST

The US military isn't interested in combat, they are interested in P.C woke nonsense, recruiting commercials that highlight gay marriage of things, kicking out perfectly good serving troops who don't want this vaccination and conducting internal witch hunts, while totally ignoring the disaster of Afghanistan.

jamemurp27 Oct 2021 2:01 p.m. PST

Heritage Foundation is a joke- they just push politics and the ratings are about as valid as anyone's opinion on the board. The fact that they categorize the most advanced, highest tech forces with ~20 years combat experience as "marginal" is laughable. Come to think of it, the views on operational ability laid out by posters in this very thread (sans one rant ) are better reasoned.

The reality is that the US is still generally regarded as the most powerful in the world. The US Space Force is still the first and only independent such force (silly uniforms and all). We double the second highest military budget (China) and between the two spend as much as the rest of the world combined. We have more personnel than any other nation other than India and China and project globally.

Now, there is certainly room for disagreement about how effectively US forces have been utilized and where the could be improved, but there is no question that the US remains the dominant global military force.

While China and Russia might get trotted out to justify more military spending, both of those nations are absolutely aware of the situation and in no way shape or form desire war with the US.

arealdeadone27 Oct 2021 2:38 p.m. PST

~20 years combat experience

20 years combat experience isn't necessarily a good thing if that combat is in a permissive environment against insurgents whose main tactic was land mines/IEDS, occasional rocket launches and snipers/random dudes plinking away with AKs.

Note Iraq's military had 10 years experience fighting Iranians and decades of fighting against Kurds.

Lessons learned were all wrong – the Iraqis deployed and utilised forces the same way they would to deter the degraded Iranians with their human wave tactics.


It didn't work against the US which practiced a totally different type of warfare with emphasis on overwhelming firepower.

Same applies to US – fighting third world insurgents or third world states with no air defences or offensive capability is not the same as fighting a near peer on their own turf (which various China Seas and Yellow Sea or Baltics are).


Do you think a US soldier whose experience is in patrolling and skirmishing with odd insurgents is really prepared to face a massive artillery barrage and then fight against a well armed armoured assault supported by drones and gunships?

Do you think the Navy whose main combat experience is launching fighters for counter insurgency missions in a totally permissive environment is now ready to take down a Chinese A2/AD network replete with anti shipping and surface to air missiles, fighters guided by AWACS, destroyers, frigates, corvettes and submarines and a tens of thousands of sea mines?

l). We double the second highest military budget (China)

Money is somewhat irrelevant, it is purchasing power that counts. If I have a budget of $100 USD and you have a budget of $300 USD (3 times as much) and it costs me $10 USD to produce a rifle and you $100 USD then who is going to have more rifles?


We have more personnel than any other nation other than India and China and project globally.

Yep and you've also got commitments all over the world whilst the Chinese and Russia largely don't and can concentrate power (especially the Chinese from a naval and aerial perspective).


US has already openly stated it cannot fight two small wars at the same time.

It certainly would struggle to wage a war against say China whilst maintaining a conventional deterrent against Russia.


The US has other major issues:

1. Massive bottlenecks in naval maintenance and shipbuilding that's hindering peace time operations. Now imagine a war where you are losing ships or having ships come back in with battle damage.

2. Little or no commercial shipping let alone shipyards left to build them.

3. Ageing everything – the USAF is especially hindered here – virtually most of its fleet is 1980-90s with huge amounts of it being from 1960s (tankers, aerial refuellers, most of bomber fleet, trainers).


The USN is similar.

Chinese and Russian equipment is often much newer having been built in 2000s (albeit with 1980-90s tech).

The issue is replacement rates. And many US replacement programs are lagging (eg F-35, ICBM replacement etc) or failing (KC-46, LCS) whilst gobbling up huge amounts of cash and at times actually seeing a deterioration in capability (eg LCS, Zummwalt).

So the US is either upgrading ancient equipment like 1990s F-16s and B-52s or suffering declines in numbers (the navy attack subs and large surface combatants).

And again given industrial reductions, upgrade programs (and often basic maintenance) lags by years.


The US Space Force is still the first and only independent such force

So? Other states air forces control this.

China has an independent conventional and nuclear missile force (People's Liberation Army Rocket Force) – doesn't mean the US and Russian ICBM/SLBM arsenals don't dwarf the Chinese one or that the US, Russia and others don't have conventional missiles.

shadoe0127 Oct 2021 3:18 p.m. PST

Ardo,

In WWII, armoured divisions had 5,000 vehicles or less…a far cry from 20-25,000 vehicles today (i.e., an armoured division today – in terms of vehicles – is about as big as a corps in WWII).

FYI – I remember a discussion with an armoured corps officer back in the late 80s about Operation Market Garden. His view was that the Guard Armoured division was the wrong choice for the ground portion of the operation as it was – in his words – a Cadillac division (i.e., to many extra vehicles and kit added in that made it unwieldy).

Do you really think a formation of 20-25,000 vehicles is as maneuverable as one of 5,000 vehicles???? Sorry, but….NO! It is not.

I disagree without almost everything you said about brigades and divisions….well, except for the HQ commanding 15 brigades bit. Yes, that is too much. We did some work on this…where the intent was to see if brigade HQ could be eliminated with Division HQ directly commanding battalions. I concluded that a more reasonable hypothesis was that it was the division HQ that could be eliminated – i.e., a corps HQ could command 4-6 maneuver brigades of 4-5 maneuver battalions (i.e., 2-3 division equivalents). Keep in mind that the current structure was created in Napoleonic times. It is reasonable to re-visit the assumptions underlying the brigade-division-corps hierarchy.

Legion 427 Oct 2021 4:38 p.m. PST

FYI – for a long time I've thought a brigade size formation makes a lot of sense as the formation for maneuver warfare. When modern mechanized divisions have 20,000 +/- vehicles that doesn't seem like operationally maneuverable to me.
Well even Separate Bdes are part of a Corps or attached to a Div. Like the Sep Mech Hvy Bde I was with '86-'90. Part of 18th ABN Corps.

A Div with 20,000 vehicles is broken down into it's organic Bdes and Bns. Plus attached Div. support assets. Bdes are generally Battle Grp/Task Force organized with attached support assets, e.g. FA, CEs, ADA, etc. So a Bde can operate independently if need be. But will still have to draw log, intel, etc., assets from Div or Corps.

Today Bde Battle Grps can deploy with much more flexibility than previously. The same could go for Bn TFs. The TF having attached assets making it a Combined Arms TF. Again with attached FA, CEs, ADA, etc. As with the Bde.

Most probably know this, but I thought it was worth mentioning, anyway.


Irish Marine +1 … worth repeating …

The US military isn't interested in combat, they are interested in P.C woke nonsense, recruiting commercials that highlight gay marriage of things, kicking out perfectly good serving troops who don't want this vaccination and conducting internal witch hunts, while totally ignoring the disaster of Afghanistan.

shadoe0127 Oct 2021 5:47 p.m. PST

Legion 4,

Your points are indeed worth mentioning….

My thoughts on this originated with some field trials done at the request of a former commander of the now defunct ACE Mobile Force (Land) or AMF(L) for short. For those you don't know, the AMF(L) was a high readiness brigade (so 3-5 maneuver battalions) but it had about 12 (maneuver) battalions designated by different nations from which the 3-5 battalions could be selected. The commander – a major general (so same rank as a division commander) – thought, that if he had 9-12 battalions the AMF(L) could be a division (as befitting his rank). The only problem was there were not assigned brigade HQ so the trial was to see if the AMF(L) could act as a division with its 9-12 battalions with the AMF(L) HQ acting as div HQ and no intervening brigade HQ – enabled by modern communications and Command information systems. The trials should that it could not – for reasons I won't go into here.

I wasn't involved in the trials but almost all the rest of my group was – I was left holding the fort (i.e., responsible for the land and amphibious requirements for the next round of the defence requirements review which was supposed to be a quiet, routine one – it wasn't. All hot-place-stuff broke loose, but that's another story.)

Anyway, I had a number of discussions with the people involved. What I came away with was:

1) The battalion-brigade-division-corps structure was established in Napoleonic times with some tinkering since then – one of the biggest being going from square to triangular formations. Given that technology has changed rather a lot since then, it's worth re-visiting the concepts – which, to some degree, has been happening – as you discussed above.

2) My conclusion – based on my peripheral discussions with those involved in the field trials – was that, if one had to eliminate one level of command, the right one was division with some of the div assets/responsibilities going to the brigades and some to the corps HQ. So instead of a corps of , say, 3 divs of 3 brigades of 3 battalions (27 battalions), one might effectively 'fight' the same number of (27-ish) battalions organized as a corps of 4-6 brigades of 4-6 battalions. That hypothesis never got tested – well, it didn't imply the AMF(L) commander would command a 'division'. One would also need some analysis to see if it was more efficient – i.e., it's possible the 'saved' HQ staff would be off-set by a greater increase in logistics and combat support.

If my memory hasn't failed me – I recall that during Op Iraqi Freedom, US divisions operated over an area normally assigned to a corps and brigades over a division sized area. I would expect that if the dozen-ish Russian divisions invaded a NATO country do would be operating similarly. They'd have to given the size of the operational area. (Note: I haven't read any Russian doctrine since leaving NATO and what I read there was still, more or less, based Soviet doctrine for the employment of armies and divisions.)

Oh…and this DOES relate to wargaming!!!!

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP27 Oct 2021 5:56 p.m. PST

Legion – Irish Marine makes a point. We may be concerned by some of these issues but I am not going to take this as intel and bet against us in the field based on it. I know some active duty guys who would seriously disagree with that first sentence.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP27 Oct 2021 6:04 p.m. PST

Ardo – if the latest US combat experience experience is against insurgents, what about the latest Chinese combat experience re: able to launch a large scale assault with drones and artillery?

I am not familiar with the Russian combat situation in the Crimea/Ukraine. Has that been a testing ground for them?

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP27 Oct 2021 6:11 p.m. PST

Legion and Shadoe:

Your info is very interesting and helpful for a better picture of the recent evolution of organization and operations. Thank you!

arealdeadone27 Oct 2021 6:58 p.m. PST

So instead of a corps of , say, 3 divs of 3 brigades of 3 battalions (27 battalions), one might effectively 'fight' the same number of (27-ish) battalions organized as a corps of 4-6 brigades of 4-6 battalions. T

Except there is more to a division or brigade than merely battalions – there's also the supporting arms (recce, air defence, artillery, logistics, attack/support aviation etc).

Most modern brigades lack at least some or all of this due to difficulty of managing such units in small dispersed numbers (eg aviation) or scarcity (eg air defence) .

A US Army division contains them all.

The US Army has reinstated divisional artillery HQs because they found the brigade artillery had insufficient volume of fire and ability to coordinate on its own.


recall that during Op Iraqi Freedom, US divisions operated over an area normally assigned to a corps and brigades over a division sized area. I would expect that if the dozen-ish Russian divisions invaded a NATO country do would be operating similarly. They'd have to given the size of the operational area.


There's some key difference here:

1. The Iraqi army in 2003 was a pale shadow of what it was in 1991. It had not been rebuilt at all. The US had complete virtually uncontested air superiority, total armour and artillery superiority, etc etc.

In 2003 it numbered a measly 20 understrength divisions compared to 40+ in 1991.

Only 12 of these were located in the south.

Thus in 2003 the Iraqi army lacked numbers for any kind of in depth defence.


2. Iraqi air defence in 2003 was rudimentary with only some MANPADS, AAA and SHORADS operational. The fighter fleet was mainly grounded or destroyed/lost in 1991. The air defence network itself was non-existent after 1991 as well as 12 years of US bombing it. It was also thoroughly obsolete.

3. Iraqi poor morale and decayed command structure. This was again a known factor.

4. So US didn't have to concentrate force due to:
a. Iraqi lacking troops to maintain defence in depth.
b. Iraq unable to stop allied strike or aerial reconnaissance.
c. Considerable gaps in Iraqi defensive lines due to lack of troops.
d. Inability of Iraq to reinforce any areas due to allied aerial supremacy.


Now extrapolate to say Russia invading Baltics
1. Terrain is far less conducive to rapid advance – either urban, forested or marshy.

2. These countries are considerably smaller than Iraq. It is thus easier for defender to focus power with smaller number of units.

3. Nature of terrain means it is a lot easier for even small groups of defenders to stall Russian advance.

4. No air supremacy for Russians (in fact I suspect they lose the air war straight away).

5. Enemy is well trained, has modern C3 (better than Russians) and even if light infantry well equipped with AT weapons and MANPADS.

So for Russians to punch through Baltics they need to able to concentrate strength much denser than the US did in Iraq.

It means a lot more units in a lot denser space to be able to punch through.

Ardo – if the latest US combat experience experience is against insurgents, what about the latest Chinese combat experience re: able to launch a large scale assault with drones and artillery?

At best the Chinese are trained in it. At worst incompetent tyros.

As mentioned the PLA Ground Forces probably won't play much of a role in SC Sea or even a key one in Taiwan. Those fights are won in the air and on the sea.


US does not have capability to invade China. So other than maybe initial fighting in Taiwan, the Chinese ground forces are glorified garrison troops.


I am not familiar with the Russian combat situation in the Crimea/Ukraine. Has that been a testing ground for them?

It has (especially on drones). The Russians also practice mass mobilisations – literally up to a couple of hundred thousand men. Their exercises dwarf NATO exercises.

arealdeadone27 Oct 2021 7:15 p.m. PST

Shadoe,

Also forgot to mention, NATO partners haven't replaced corps-divisions-brigades with corp-brigades.

It has gone to brigades-battalions.

And the brigades aren't capable of independent action as they often lack many assets such as air defence or artillery or electronic warfare or logistics or anything.

These are kept in centralised units and often there is insufficient units to provide coverage to all brigades.

Even the units within brigades are often understrength eg armoured battalions with as few as 20-30 tanks in them.

shadoe0127 Oct 2021 7:42 p.m. PST

Except there is more to a division or brigade than merely battalions – there's also the supporting arms (recce, air defence, artillery, logistics, attack/support aviation etc).

Thanks for the education but I suspect I might have known that. Of course, moving to a corps-brigade structure would require analysis of what resources at each level and brigades in such a structure would not be the same as brigades in a corps-div-brigade structure.

FYI – a single artillery direction centre was one of the main reasons the AMF(L) HQ could not effectively command a div size formation.

Agree on Iraqi forces.

Was thinking Poland. Baltic states are barely of tactical depth never mind operational. So operational maneuver is a moot point.

Was also thinking US forces not hapless Euro forces. UK pulling out of AMF(L) was the reason it was disbanded.

My point remains – but to restate it differently. Hypothesis – an equivalent forces organized as a corps-brigade is more operationally agile than as corps-div-brigade. Note: 20,000 vehicles = 1,000 km road convoy in close column. But it's an hypothesis. Just saying current conceptual (legacy) structures aren't immutable – there are other possibilities that could be more effective.

arealdeadone27 Oct 2021 8:28 p.m. PST

Shadoe,

I agree the structure is not set in stone. No idea about agility – surely local terrain would play a role here. Note many of the supposed divisions in the Bulge were essentially brigades yet still the bottlenecks happened!

But then a corps commander has to plan for 4-6 brigades instead of only 3 divisions (in addition to corps level assets).

All rather a moot point as NATO forces have shrunk too much to even think in terms of divisions or corps.


What is known that after 10 years the Russians went back to a divisional structure.


It is also known is that in addition to Russia, forces that focus on large conventional battles (Israel, ,South Korea, Japan, Poland, Egypt and Turkey) also still focus on divisions.

What is also known is that NATO forces are continuing to shrink and many are still mainly equipping themselves for low level COIN (emphasis on special forces, ultra light infantry, things like MRAPS etc).


Taiwan does practice the model you advocate at least on paper – they have three Army Corps, with each having between 3 and 5 combat brigades as well as supports.

These appear to be more closer to divisions as the brigades often lack many components and in some cases are closer to old fashioned regiments with just infantry with some artillery but no recce, signals, anti-armour etc.

I suspect use of term Corps is more some sort of counter intelligence thing.

Also some of the brigades are listed as "area commands" thus implying some sort of geographic allocation.

jamemurp28 Oct 2021 5:25 a.m. PST

arealdeadone, I may not agree with every point you make, but I must say that you have added immensely to this topic with your well reasoned and articulate posts. If all posting was of your caliber, I think this board would be greatly improved!

shadoe0128 Oct 2021 7:57 a.m. PST

ardo,

If there were real world (tested) examples, then the hypothesis wouldn't be an hypothesis. However, removing layers of management has proven to be useful elsewhere. It's interesting that the incentive to move from square to triangular was driven by attrition and lack of manpower and not consciously. The benefit of triangular was understood afterwards.

I'm not too worried about the ability of HQ to command more than 3 subordinate maneuver elements – certainly 4-6 is a reasonable span of control with modern command and control systems – and – most importantly – an army's concepts of command and control and doctrine. In recent years there's been a lot of effort in examining centralised vs de-centralized, etc.

Forget the terms brigades, divisions and corps – and think is there a significant advantage in a new structure? If not, then it's not worth trying to change.

As for agility – it's not speed of moving forward. Moving 20,000 vehicles down a single road will take as long as it takes regardless of organization. However, if the degradation in combat power small enough and you only needed 10,000 vehicles that would be a benefit. That's what they discovered with triangular vs square – the degradation in sustainability of combat power was acceptable compared to the advantages.

So, what do I mean by agility – I mean the ability to change and adapt to new circumstances. It's speed of communicating new instructions and speed of re-direction of effort. Obviously 2 layers of command had an advantage over 3 layers has an advantage with respect to communication while smaller, modular formations have an advantage for re-direction. But….it would need analysis and testing…and a re-assessment of what combat support and service support held at what level.

So, why wouldn't army's change? Several reasons…

1) Tradition
2) Costs of re-organizing, re-equipping and re-writing of doctrine.
3) Fewer command positions for promotion – ever know management to re-organize themselves out of the picture?

The US army probably has the ability to re-configure – and that's historical back to WWII with their concept of combined arms combat commands as different concepts from regiments for administration and training.

When it comes to Euro nations downsizing – regretfully, rather than re-think their concepts into how to maintain an effective, deployable formation, they simply shed necessary stuff (especially combat service support) while keeping enough combat arms staff positions to maintain opportunities for promotion (senior army commanders tend to be from the combat arms so there's a tribal thing). I haven't seen many examples of intelligent down-sizing – rather a more chaotic display of internal competition among the service branches. Should one be surprised?

Now, I would like to raise an area where China does have increasing capability – currently not as powerful as the US – but the gap here is small than for conventional forces. It's cyberwarfare. In some areas like edge computing they are the global leaders. They have demonstrated the ability to establish a quantum communications channel over long distances. Why is this important? You can have great combat power but can't get it to the right location at the right time, it's useless.

The underlying theme is that a non-nuclear conflict between – for example, the US and China – will possibly be very different from WWII, Arab-Israelis wars, Desert Storm and Op Iraqi Freedom. No one fully understands how though.

Legion 428 Oct 2021 12:42 p.m. PST

Oh…and this DOES relate to wargaming!!!!
Yes it does ! Your post is very interesting as I was not aware of those field trials. Based on may experiences as a Rifle PL and later a Mech Co. Cdr. on Active Duty '79-'90. The organization from Plt on up was very flexible based on the situation, etc.

We almost always cross-attached units. E.g. A Tank Bn would trade a Tank Co. for a Mech or Inf Co.(in the 101, Light Divs] Creating Bn Task forces.

E.g. As a Rifle Plt Ldr in the 101, we may have got a Tank Co. attached to our Air Assault Bn. And one of our Rifle Plts were attached to a Tank Co. The Tank Bn would get one of our Inf Cos. attached to it too. Of course the Light Inf Plts in the 101, etc., would have to ride on the back of the Tanks. Better than walking …

At that time a 101 Air Assault Rifle Co. was 2 Rifle Plts + 1 81mm Mortar Plts. We were short one whole Rifle Plt. And we were RDF !

Our Air Assault Bn was organized as ;

3 Rifle Cos.

1 AT Co

1 Sct Plt

1 4.2 in Mortar Plt

The same cross-attaching would happen with Mech. As a Mech. Cdr. I was frequently cross-attach to a Tank Bn. Coming down from Bn HQ, trade one of my Mech Plts for a Tank Plt and create a Mech Hvy Co Tm. I.e.:

2 Mech Plts
1 Tank Plt
+ the Co organic ITV Section – 2 M901 ITVs

The same would happen in the Tank Bn. The Tank Co. that got my Mech Plt would create a Tank Hvy Co Tm.

2 Tank Plts
1 Mech Plt

No Co ITV level ITV SEC. in Tank Cos.
The only ITVs in a Tank Bn were in their Sct Plt – 3 ITVs + 3 M113s)

This type of cross-attaching made our units more effective, etc., based on the mission etc.

More examples of this, e.g. in desert training, our Mech Hvy Bde, the 197th. On one FTX, was tasked organized with the Tank Bn having two Mech Cos, one from each Mech Bns in the Bde. Creating a Balanced Bn TF.

Other times the Tank Bn would get one Mech Bn by cross-attaching with a Mech Bn. Who would get one Tank Co.

The 197th Mech Hvy Bde (Sep) was organized as this :

2 Mech Bns(M113)

1 Tank Bn (3 M60A1 Cos. + 1 M1 IP Co.)

1 CE Co.

1 Armored Cav Troop

1 SPFA Bn(M109s SP 155s)

1 MP Plt

1 CBT SPT Bn

This would be a standard in any Div to organize it's Bdes into similar "Battle Grps" …


In the ROK with the 2ID. On one FTX, my Mech Bn was attached to the Infantry Bde. A Tank Bn from Tank Bde was also attached to the Light Inf Bde. And then a ROK Light Inf Bn too.

That Task Organized Bde was :

1 Mech Bn
1 Tank Bn
1 ROK Light Inf Bn.

The Infantry Cos. from 2d Bde were also attached to other units in the Div. I.e. 1st Tank Bde and 3d Mech/Inf Bde

The 2ID Bdes at that time consisted of :

1st Tank Bde – 2 Tank & 1 Mech Bn

2d Inf Bde – 2 Inf Bns

3d Inf Bde – 1 Mech & 1 Inf

The 2ID also had a Div Cav Bn[4th of the 7th, Custer's old unit!]

Yes, the 2ID was short 2 Inf Bns …


On another FTX in the ROK, My Mech Bn was organized as :

1 Tank Co from the Tank Bn

3 Mech Cos. from my Mech Bn

1 AT Co. (M901 ITVs) from my Mech Bn

1 USMC Inf Co. flown in from Guam(IIRC). They rode on the back of the M60A1 Tanks.

Bn level assets:

1 Mech Sct Plt (3 M113s & 3 M901 ITVs, when I first got to the Mech Bn, our Sct Plt was 7 M151 Jeeps !)

1 4.2 SP Mortar Plt (4 M106 SP Mortars + 1 M577 FDC Track)

On the DMZ mission we'd have one or two more Sct Plts from the other Inf or Mech units in the 2ID. So our Mech Bn would actually be tasked organized with 2 or 3 Sct Plts including our own.

My point is even back in the 80s the US Army task organized, created combined Mech/Tank Co Tms, Bn TFs and even Bde level "Battle Grps"/CBT Tms, per se.

Legion 428 Oct 2021 1:06 p.m. PST

Legion – Irish Marine makes a point. We may be concerned by some of these issues but I am not going to take this as intel and bet against us in the field based on it. I know some active duty guys who would seriously disagree with that first sentence.
No I wouldn't bet against us either. But I know as a former Rifle PL and Mech Co. Cdr., seems to me some of this new "woke"/CRT training/indoctrination is a waste of time. When training for combat ops, etc. that would be a better use of that time.

Sadly I has come across a few Vets who have drank the Kool Aid. I guess they may not know any better ? And some have served in Iraq & A'stn … So what do I know ?

Your info is very interesting and helpful for a better picture of the recent evolution of organization and operations. Thank you!
Glad to impart that intel on some who are interested/care … thumbs up

arealdeadone28 Oct 2021 1:34 p.m. PST

Shadoe1,

Some interesting stuff.

I think a thing you tacitly raise is about the length of the tail. In WW2 you have 5000 vehicles supporting a division, today it is 20,000. Obviously number of combat elements has not increased and in some cases it has decreased whilst other have increased (aviation).

The question here is, is all the increase in tail (supporting functions) necessary?

Also then it should be noted that in a US division, mobility isn't just 20,000 land vehicles but also an attached helicopter brigade with UH-60 and CH-47s.

Though aviation units have huge tails. They also probably don't follow the division per se due to vulnerability of air assets so close to the front line.

In fact the MQ-1C needs a proper runway to operate from (yet bizarrely a divisional asset).

So out of those 20,000 vehicles what percentage is supporting the aviation component which would not be involved involved in any road march.

arealdeadone28 Oct 2021 1:59 p.m. PST

As for Market Garden and Guards division, the plan was fundamentally flawed from the start and force composition wasn't going to neutralise the terrain or the single road.

I think it is however achievable today if you have complete air superiority and excellent ISTAR – indeed much of the terrain the Azerbaijanis advanced through was mountainous and favoured the defender due to numerous choke points.

shadoe0128 Oct 2021 3:23 p.m. PST

ardo,

Got more interesting stuff – been looking up Russian army evolution stuff for the past decade.

To me capability can't be understood by looking at numbers / types of equipment. I need to also consider personnel, training, doctrine, logistics, etc. Will post my impressions on the Russians later – but the short summary is I'd be worried about a surprise attack to seize objectives near Russian territory – guess who that would be – and treat it as a fait d'accompli?

I worry about the tail….it takes 4X more transport capacity to deploy a division but a division still has the same number of maneuver battalions.

I first came across this problem when I started working for NATO. we were asked to look into the problem of NATO extracting the UN force from Bosnia. The UN force was 20,000 but had 25,000 vehicles!!!!! Even a modest NATO force and the UN force would have filled every road in the country. Units would be blocked even before they left their base. Why would a 'lightly armed' UN force need more vehicles than personnel???? Go figure.

Will post the Russian stuff in a new thread as this one is about the strength of the US military and not the Russian.

shadoe0128 Oct 2021 5:10 p.m. PST

@Legion 4,

If I recall – the concept was tested as part of Exercise Adventure Exchange 2000 which took place in Greece.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP28 Oct 2021 5:34 p.m. PST

Legion – in my own government service i had some leeway after a time and avoided all training that would not help me in the field. I think training is a mixed bag everywhere, depending on the latest ideas higher ups get sometimes. Was it not often this way in the military after you were in for a while? Or do you think this is a fundamental shift?

Much thanks to everyone for the rundown on all of this, a great resource and far more expertise and detail here than I imagined. Great stuff to know about.

Legion 429 Oct 2021 2:58 p.m. PST

If I recall – the concept was tested as part of Exercise Adventure Exchange 2000 which took place in Greece.
I had ETS'd in '90. But didn't seem to hear anything about this FTX. But got to know.

I think training is a mixed bag everywhere, depending on the latest ideas higher ups get sometimes. Was it not often this way in the military after you were in for a while? Or do you think this is a fundamental shift?
Well as a Plt Ldr and Mech Co. Cdr. We always had a lot of training going on. Sometimes wish we had more time.

From Squad Ldrs training their Squad in SQT tasks in the Company area. Too deploying worldwide at times. Sometimes some new tactical concepts were introduced. But everything revolved around Mobile Combined Arm Warfare/Air-Land Battle Doctrine. We did get some new equipment training obviously.

We had to prep & train for a number of environs, in both mounted & dismounted ops, etc. We had a lot of lessons learned from Vietnam and be ready to go fight a Combined Arms war in Europe. Or in the ROK …

So I think we were very focused on our missions. With some SOP changes when going to a new unit, at times. Along with some new concepts at times but nothing major, IIRC … Always comes down to terrain & situation … Training, Experience & Leadership …

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP30 Oct 2021 4:14 a.m. PST

Legion – the answer I am happy to hear, speaks to professionalism and readiness.

I was thinking more of PC type training, not mission, tactical, weapons. I was always cynical, rightly or wrongly, of anything that seemed like a PC distraction along the lines of what Irish Marine was talking about and looked for ways to steer clear,

Your training objectives were obviously critical, and I wondered whether Irish Marine has hit upon a fundamental change of focus, and whether that is actually distracting from mission readiness? . I am not taking him literally,.It sounds like you were not much involved in PC trainings, but per Irish Marine they are now a major focus.

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