Angles and Dangles, and Then Some

USS_Chopper_(SS-342)_off_South_America_1968

Sequence of Events

15 to 30 Seconds After Loss of AC Power

The rate of change of increasing down angle accelerated rapidly from about 15 degrees down to approximately 40 to 45 degrees down; with full speed ahead still being answered.

The starboard controllerman on watch in the maneuvering room picked up the XJA circuit (inter compartmental sound powered phone system) but heard no conversations.

The Officer of the deck took the hand telephone from the helmsman and ordered “All stop” and immediately “All back full”. There was no response to this order, nor was it heard in the maneuvering room.

The after torpedo room watch picked up the hand phone (XJA circuit) and heard no conversation on the phone.

The diving officer ordered “Blow bow buoyancy” and the auxiliaryman responded to the order. In addition the diving officer ordered the stern planesman to shift to emergency and the stern planesman responded to the order.

The commanding officer entered the control room and was able to pull himself to a position between the ladder from control to conning tower and the control room table.

One of the chiefs fell to the forward end of the forward battery as he attempted to climb into the control room.

Holy moley.  Read the whole thing.   Especially “Lesson Learned and Action Taken” Number 5.   Drills and discipline.  Rote memory.  Training, training, training.  Not a word about SAPR or human trafficking, or Diversity…

H/T (not surprisingly) Grandpa Bluewater.

ROK Live Fire 2015

For some reason, Korea, like a lot of Asian nations, loves to put on a big spectacle live fire for domestic consumption.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVXQlkpaC5k?feature=player_embedded]

Our Army doesn’t do much of this. It really don’t have much training value, and fuel and ammo are expensive.

Still, it’s hella fun to watch.

H/T Brobible.

Very Bad Bradley Tactics

The only other nation to buy the Bradley Fighting Vehicle is Saudi Arabia. They bought 400 after seeing its performance in Desert Storm. And they are currently using them in Yemen against Iranian backed Houthi rebels. Unfortunately, they’re not using them well.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h87a41N-IhU?feature=player_embedded]

That first attack is simply inexcusable.  The dismount team should have been providing local security.  As for the ATGM attacks, again, crews need to be alert and scanning their sectors.

Another point. Compare this video of a Russian built vehicle immediately bursting into flames. Think back to the video of the Bradleys.  You’ll notice they don’t instantly brew up. The vehicle might be inoperative, or even beyond repair, but the fire suppression system works, at least long enough for the crew to escape.

And take a look at this video of US forces training in Ft. Irwin. Vehicle commanders are up and scanning. They’re also using their weapons to suppress any possible missile teams.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NL57h5Tmn00]

Wargaming- The original think tanks.

BJ Armstrong, one of the more vibrant thinkers in the public naval sphere, has a great post at USNI arguing for a return to the Navy’s historically strong habit of wargaming.

Under the auspices of the Defense Innovation Initiative, announced by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel before he left office, Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work has sounded a call to revive the practice of wargaming in the Department of Defense. In a memo issued Feb. 9, Work announced plans to “reinvigorate, institutionalize, and systematize wargaming across the Department.”

This memo is a vital first step, and should instigate a Navy wide re-examination of when, why, and how we conduct these evolutions across the force. Lessons learned a century ago demonstrate that the Navy should take the memo’s intent on board, but must go even further than Mr. Work’s suggestions in order to maximize the warfighting ability and innovative spirit of the fleet.

Indeed.

BJ mentions in the full article the tendency of late for wargames to be conducted at ever higher levels. These “echelons above reality” diminish the actual value of wargames. Of course, if you look at our post today on nuclear targeting, you might discern one of the reasons for the shift to higher levels. Nuclear war can only be wargamed. And since any nuclear war is a political act, rather than a truly military one, it of course has to be conducted at a political level. That such a level has filtered back to the conduct of wargames at the operational and tactical level of conventional warfare is not such a good trend. One suspects it is also a function of the modern era of communications, where we talk about the Strategic Corporal, but in fact face the Four Star Squad Leader.

For many, many years, the Naval War College at Newport, RI focused on wargaming. The games looked at likely (and a few unlikely) scenarios the fleet might face, and gamed out what current and proposed platforms could do. They tested tactics and future capabilities. They tried foreign tactics and platforms. The results of games at Newport were used by the General Board in deciding on characteristics of both the fleet composition, and the characteristics of individual ship classes. When the Navy went before Congress and begged for money, they had reasonable answers to why they needed what they were asking for. Newport was, in effect, a think tank.

Unlike many think tanks today that are comprised of analysts, however well educated, the Naval War College consisted of both a faculty with stability to provide institutional knowledge, and a student body that constantly brought new ideas and perspectives from the fleet- that is, the actual operators, and ultimate customers of the College’s product.

Finally, wargaming allowed for a wider interaction with, and testing of, innovations in the whole of the Fleet. Concepts first developed at the gaming tables were evaluated by the CNO’s staff, and the General Board which advised the Secretary, and then taken through practical tests in tactical exercises at sea. The results of the exercises were fed back to the games in a virtuous cycle which refined and perfected the ideas and methods. This was the system used in the inter-war years to develop naval aviation and undersea warfare: concepts central to American victory in World War II.

Wargaming is more than simply a simulation, or a tactical training scenario. There’s a large number of milbloggers today talking strategy. The problem with that is, politicians will either set the strategy, or screw up your planned strategy. Wargaming is the bridge between techniques and strategy. The tactical and operational level is the realm of the military (or naval, in this case) art.

It’s expensive to actually operate a fleet, and actually fighting one isn’t really practical for training purposes. Most simulations and exercises today are focused on current doctrine. Pre-deployment workups are focused on certifying that the ships and other units involved are trained and ready to accomplish their next deployment, using current accepted doctrine. Wargaming, be it at the War College level, or at the fleet, or lower level, can and should be an incubator for discerning what our next tactical doctrine should be.

XBoX and the Obstacle Breach

One of the most difficult tasks an armored force can face is breaching an obstacle.

Obstacles on the mechanized battlefield typically consist of an anti-tank ditch, concertina wire, and one or more minefields. Obstacles themselves aren’t expected to stop a force. Instead, they are intended to delay a force.* That imposed delay tends to leave the attacker bunched up, and vulnerable to the defenders fires, both direct and indirect.

Not surprisingly, the US Army has published quite a bit of doctrine on just how to breach such an obstacle. Also not surprisingly, for many years every brigade that went through the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin performed at least one obstacle breach mission, and usually more than one.

The problem is, it is hard to learn the complexities of a mounted breach just by reading a book, and it’s expensive as heck to get the entire brigade (or BCT today) out in the field to practice.

The Army way of learning is often described as crawl/walk/run. Crawl might be standing in a field with the manual in your hands and simply walking through the steps of a task on a very reduced scale. Walk then becomes doing it on a full scale, mounted, but at a leisurely pace, and against no opposition. Run, of course, would be the full up, full scale, full speed exercise.

The Army’s Training and Doctrine Command has established a small cell to produce training video.  The graphics are produced on a variant of XBoX games, and are used to recreate various battles or training tasks. And one of them is the Obstacle Breach.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZ-sCT_maAQ]

Obviously, a 2o minute video won’t replace actually reading the manuals and then going out and practicing. But it does give a decent visualization of what the discussion is about. As a supplement to to the various training aids available, it can help ensure that time and resources are not wasted in later stages of training.

H/T to :

 

 

*Actually, they are also often intended to turn a force (as in seek another avenue of movement), or channelize them on terrain of the defenders choice.

Signal Communication within the Infantry Regiment- 1933

George C. Marshall’s tenure as Deputy Commandant of the Infantry School was marked by many innovations in the training of Infantry officers of the inter-war years. One of his innovations was the use of training films. They’re ubiquitous now, but were a rather radical idea at  the time. There is certainly no substitute for actually training on a given learning objective. But before the “doing” part, it certainly helps to give an overview of how a certain task should be done. Yes, of course the doctrinal manuals are the authoritative resource. But the dramatic enactment of doctrinally sound operations makes it easier for the student to grasp the fundamentals of the learning objective.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CT-kgQBvgrI]

The 29th Infantry Regiment was (and still is, for that matter) the “schoolhouse” regiment at Ft. Benning, providing troops upon which officers at career schools can practice the roles and missions they’ll assume at ever higher levels of responsibility.  Having studied a particular task on paper (or film) in the classroom, the students go to the woods of Ft. Benning’s various training areas and put into practice that which they’ve learned.

Marshall was famous for making such learning exercises as difficult as possible through various means, such as providing inadequate maps, or simply no maps at all! Other times, he would issue orders with deliberate ambiguities. The goal wasn’t merely to create officers who could execute the steps of a learning checklist, but rather determine which officers could thrive in the confusion of war, those who could discern the wheat from the chaff.

Army in the Pacific adopts new style of deployment – Pacific – Stripes

The Army in the Pacific is starting a new deployment concept this week that sends soldiers out into the region for multiple exercises and longer stays in foreign countries that are intended to reassure partner nations and develop closer relationships as the United States continues its “rebalance” to the Pacific.

Developed out of Fort Shafter, “Pacific Pathways” also is a new Army strategy to stay relevant as large occupational land forces that are costly and slow to mobilize become less viable.

About 550 soldiers with the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team out of Washington state and supporting units are heading to Indonesia for the exercise Garuda Shield in the first iteration of Pacific Pathways, the Army said.

The soldiers will utilize nine Stryker armored vehicles and eight helicopters.

About 500 other 2nd Stryker and supporting soldiers will head to Malaysia with 11 Stryker vehicles and three helicopters for the exercise Keris Strike, which overlaps with the Indonesia training.

The first group of 550 soldiers and others will then leapfrog over to Japan for Orient Shield, the Army said.

via Army in the Pacific adopts new style of deployment – Pacific – Stripes.

My tour in the 25th ID meant I was part of US Army Pacific. And at that time, there was a fairly regular schedule of international training exercises with a wide variety of nations throughout the Pacific. Team Spirit was the biggest, partnering the US Army with the Republic of Korea. Generally, in addition to the 2nd Infantry Division stationed in Korea, at least a brigade from the 25th ID would deploy for the exercise, in addition to various Air Force, Navy and Marine units. Other major exercises included Cobra Gold with Thailand, and various smaller, usually battalion sized deployments to Japan, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

Given that there were 9 Infantry battalions in the division, a soldier could expect to only participate in one or two major deployments of about one month in a year. That reduced the burden of a high operational tempo and spread the benefits of training exercises across all the units of the division.

That didn’t count the availability of the 7th and 9th Infantry Divisions to send troops on their own training deployments.

During the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army had a crushing operational tempo, with some soldiers spending half their enlistments deployed overseas to a war zone. The risks of battle are bad enough, but the disruption to any chance at a semblance of a family life drive many of the best and brightest out the door. And somewhat obviously, the longer a soldier stayed in, the longer they could anticipate being deployed.

So I’m not entirely sure the 550 or so troops are going to be thrilled to deploy on a series of back to back training missions overseas, away from their homes and families, when they might reasonably point out that other troops might be available to take of month of training of their own.

The Box

A couple years ago, Venue had a pretty neat photo-essay of the training going on at the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, CA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While NTC is the most famous “box,” as a practical matter, the maneuver area of just about every training site* is commonly referred to as “the box.” That distinguishes it from the cantonment and administrative areas of training ranges. Interestingly, the training areas on ones home station are never referred to as “the box” but rather as “downrange” or simply “the field.”

As noted in the Venue article, the last decade has seen the Army shift its emphasis from training in open terrain or deep in the woods to the urban environment. In the Army, we call this MOUT, or Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain. And a lot of money has gone to making realistic urbanized training ranges. In my day, the Army approach to MOUT was to pretty much ignore it, and hope for the best. The “MOUT site” was generally nothing more than two, maybe three shells of two story cinderblock buildings.

Now, recognizing that quality training requires quality ranges, the Army has opened a new MOUT site at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia, and it’s something else.

 

The AWG facility isn’t just for training in a MOUT environment. The Army intends to use it to try to look into the future, and see what tactics and techniques enemy forces will use to counter us, and devise solutions before we ever even face the enemy.

The Brigade Cavalry Squadron

 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ea/Flickr_-_The_U.S._Army_-_%27cavalry_charge%27.jpg

Long ago, in the mists of time, back before the Army reorganized around the Brigade Combat Team concept, the Army was organized primarily around the Division as the primary tactical unit of deployment and employment. Each division had 9 or 10 maneuver battalions (either Infantry or Armor) organized into three Brigades.

Each Infantry or Armor battalion had a Scout Platoon, designed to provide reconnaissance, or what today would be called RSTA, for Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition.

The Division also had a Cavalry Squadron, essentially an RSTA battalion, with two ground troops and two aviation troops.

Most of the Army division was organized along a fairly triangular scheme, with headquarters at each level controlling three maneuver units, and appropriate supporting elements. One glaring omission in this bygone era was the gap between battalion and division. The Brigades had no organic RSTA assets. You would expect to see a company/troop sized RSTA element at the Brigade level. Instead, there was none. The Division Commander might task his Cav squadron to focus support to one or two of the three Brigades, but usually he needed it to focus on his own RSTA priorities.

So when the Army reorganized and shifted the focus from the Division to the Brigade Combat Team (BCT), one thing they did was assign a very robust RSTA capability. Each maneuver battalion would keep its organic Scout Platoon, and the BCT would have an entire RSTA squadron (or battalion sized element, if you will).

Unfortunately, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan called for increasing the numbers of BCTs in the Army. And while there was some increase in the allowed end-strength of the Army, it wasn’t nearly enough to provide the manpower for all the new BCTs.

So the Army cheated. It would stand up new BCTs, each with, among other things, their own RSTA battalion (which carried the unit designations of various historical Cavalry Squadrons). But instead of each BCT having three regular maneuver battalions, they would only have two. So the prime maneuver combat power of the BCT was reduced by a third. What wasn’t reduced was the missions these BCTs were required to perform. And so, as Tripp Callaway tells us in his article, the Cavalry RSTAs in Iraq and Afghanistan were often pressed into duty as a third maneuver battalion.

This meant that, in effect, most RSTAs were usually utilized as miniature infantry battalions and were thus given corresponding direct combat and COIN tasks to perform, rather than the traditional reconnaissance and flank security tasks they were designed to accomplish.

In the COIN warfare of the War on Terror, that was an acceptable choice.

But should the Army find itself in battle with a more conventional foe, it is imperative that the RSTA should be used in its designed, traditional role.

The Army has a relatively small number of BCTs. And those BCTs are actually fairly fragile, though they have a great deal of combat power. The trick is finding exactly where and when to apply that power, and denying any enemy the opportunity to apply his combat power against us. Finding the enemy, his order of battle, his dispositions and his intentions  while denying the enemy information about our forces and dispositions is the traditional Cavalry mission.

But what about UAVs, you ask? As Callaway notes, in any conflict against a more conventional foe, UAVs will be vulnerable, both to direct measures like Air Defense, and to jamming or cyber attacks such as network intrusions. And for true, persistent Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, there’s no substituting the man on the ground. UAVs complement, not replace, a traditional approach to ISR.

As Callaway makes the central thesis of his piece, the use of RSTA units as conventional units has meant that their traditional Cavalry skills have atrophied. Just as bad, the “end user” of their product has also forgotten how to ask for or use their “product.”

Our austere budget environment has lead to a drawdown of the number of BCTs the Army will have. But it is not all darkness. One effect of the drawdown is that the remaining BCTs will receive a third maneuver battalion. This will (hopefully) free up the RSTA to return to their traditional role.