Towards a Light, Agile, and Lethal Army


09/15/2011 Technology response to the lean years ahead?

by Michael W. Wynne, Former Undersecretary, Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

From the maneuvers of Gen. Washington, through the intensity and brilliance of those serving on both sides of the Civil War, extending in both World Wars and Korea, with Island Hopping, and the Inchon landing, and in both of the Iraq Engagements, the creative leadership of the American Military has rewritten the nature of warfare.

In Vietnam we saw the workings of Air Assault Warfare, and the balancing of mass and maneuver to secure military victories.  In Afghanistan, we witnessed the integration of small unit maneuver with aggressive air power, and in both active theaters we are continuing to witness a further extension of the maneuver concept of warfare.

Even now, in Libya and elsewhere we are witness to the emergence of shared situation awareness allowing airpower to assist and build confidence in a light yet persistent; and ultimately lethal ground force.  As we face a future filled with concern for force structure; and constraints on future funding; our future must work on basics; and move to eliminate mission overlaps.

This means interdependent warfare, wherein the principle of mass is in essence exchanged for precision strike.  This exchange provides the foundation to light, agile, maneuverable strike units, while retaining the essential lethality so necessary for force protection tactically; and deterrence and defeat in the strategic sense.

Can this be a return to the late 1990’s, in part a continuation of an accepted strategy that was swept aside for Nation Building?

The nature of this interdependent fight calls for exquisite situation awareness.  We have thought about 360-degree awareness so necessary to maneuver warfare, where maneuver intentionally exposes flanks.  This technology, embedded in our Joint Strike Fighter; and available to over 80 platforms brings in the Z-Axis.

Leveraging the Honeycomb and Swarming Capabilities Credit: Bigstock

This allows for the ground commander to demand a vertical view, potentially flattening the terrain and in the future removing obscuring foliage cover. Further, providing the ability for the ground commander to share this observation with a precision fire supplier, and perhaps even measured fires to fit the situation.

This awareness integrates Vertical Observation; Precision Strike Weaponry; and Tactical Distribution of Data. Vertical Observation now comes in the form of Satellites, Remotely Piloted Vehicles; and from Sensors mounted on strike aircraft. Precision Strike Weaponry comes from the integration of LASER Guided and Global Positioning Technology into the bombs missiles and in some cases artillery and motor shells.

Tactical distribution of data is still in work as to method; but we can and do have Joint Tactical Air Controllers equipped with down linked laptops that can integrate the battlefield with appropriate fire control. This same capability is employed by Naval and Air Forces in their vision for a joint future.

Please consider technologies that are in development today and simply extend then to essentially get more integrated, more interdependent; allowing yet smaller and agile forces to greatly push maneuver warfare in combination with this spherical situation awareness.

Look to the future technology base, and consider how it will affect the conduct of warfare.  Now; bring to bear the Military Operational Brilliance so necessary to converting any technology into a weapon of warfare.

Moving to concepts of operation and themes for any application of technology is the real challenge.  For the Z-axis and the better knowledge it portends the theory should be that one feature of the future of warfare is in getting your opponent to offer to you a high value target before you offer to them a high value target.