"A Force for Civilization."
What is "Civilization"?
Historians and Philosophers have argued over this for centuries. For this context we'll use one of the definitions on the Online Dictionary:-
"The act or process of civilizing or reaching a civilized state."
This does pose the question, "What does 'civilized' mean?". Most definitions make some mention of reclaiming a society or community from a barbaric or savage state. For our purposes Barbarism can be defined as one group preying on another. The predatory group may be either an external or internal source of aggression. It may be the nation's Government or an insurgent movement. Whatever the source, it is something that other Civilized nations should not tolerate.
Large forces of MBTs, Self-propelled Artillery and Armoured infantry have proved very effective in large scale conflicts such as Desert Storm. The US army has recently started terming such forces "Counter-Offensive forces".
Such units, however, are of little use for many of the operations that the military are more likely to be called upon to conduct:- Brushfire wars, Low intensity conflicts (LIC), counter insurgency (COIN), Operations Other Than War (OOTW) etc.
Effective performance of such missions not only needs different equipment, but different skills and mindset.
Recently there has been some theorising that the US army will evolve into a two-tiered force. One part being the heavy mechanised elements such as the MBTs and Bradley Infantry, the other being a force more suited to peacekeeping.
One problem with this is that many of the theorists proposing this do not seem to appreciate that "Peacekeeping" actually involves quite a lot of potential combat and counter-guerrilla operations. We currently seeing this in Iraq, and must be careful to learn from these lessons. As well as reconstruction one must also be capable of preserving.
Another assumption is that Peacekeeping and "Counter-Offensive" forces are "Chalk and Cheese", and that troops trained for major conflicts will be incapable of showing the restraint and subtlety that OOTW and COIN require. Mr Zumbro's experiences in Vietnam with the 1/69th armoured battalion prove this to be false. We can also draw on the considerable experiences of the British army, who's battalions have shown a competence in a broad spectrum of military operations.
My personal view is that between these two specialised forces there should be a third tier which would consist of Infantry or other units that can be adapted to either of these roles, as is required. A possible structure for these versitile formations is suggested in this article, along with details on how such units can be adapted by means of patch formations. The rest of this article considers the requirements for the specialised LIC/OOTW "tier"
In his next book, respected veteran and military writer Ralph Zumbro suggests that a force optimized for these missions be created. I have suggested the name "Special Intervention Force" (SIF) for this new unit.
Any force is of little use unless it is applied intelligently. The SIF would use Less-lethal weapons (LLW) and systems that minimize collateral damage where necessary. The baton must be as much the soldier's weapon as the rifle. Practice of martial arts such as Escrima would be encouraged.
Often the foe will be hiding in the population, so the soldier must be trained in skills that will be more familiar to beat cops –reading body language and human behavior.
The SIF soldier is as much a diplomat as he is a builder and fighter. Attention must be played to Propaganda and Winning Hearts and Minds.
To quote Mr. Zumbro:-
"To convert a dictatorship to democracy takes just as long as it did in Germany and Japan. It will take several generations of re-education, preferably by example and fairly honest trade."
"By hiring from the local economy and repairing their machinery, we blended right into the populace, they looked at us as their private army.
In effect we were public works and protector. We'd blend right into the population as their benevolent warlords."
This can be contrasted with the behavior of many other units in Vietnam, where large areas were turned into little pieces of America, to the detriment of Vietnamese society. A boost to the black market and prostitution, but a great blow to the host country's self-esteem.
While the creation of a stable democracy may be the ultimate objective, we must be pragmatic enough to appreciate that this may be too radical a change for some societies in the short term. Vietnam veteran LTC David Tooker has made the interesting observation that personal freedom and security is more a product of Constitutional Law than democracy, and this may be a better short term goal.
The SIF can be visualized as a larger version of a Special Forces Group, but with its own armour, artillery and airpower. The engineering and medical elements of the force will be greatly increased. An important feature of the SIF is that it not only "puts out fires", but helps rebuild, re-educate and re-direct a society onto a path where similar trouble is less likely to reappear a decade or so later. The SIF therefore consists of both "Combat" and "Reconstruction" elements.
Training and Education will be major roles of the SIF. On the military side they will pass on skills and expertise to friendly local forces and help raise Civilian Defence Groups. On the Reconstruction side it will be training people in Vocational and Appropriate Technology, civil engineering, healthcare and better agricultural practices .
Greater detail of this force and concept will be found in Ralph's book. This page is intended to record some of the formations and systems our discussions have indicated may be useful to the SIF.
Many (if not all) of the missions that the SIF is likely to be deployed on will be UN mandated, and this in effect offers several advantages.
The SIF in action will in fact be an international force. Richer, industrialized nations would provide the units that have extensive or expensive equipment requirements. Less affluent nations are more likely to contribute manpower. Many smaller nations such as the Philippines have very capable light infantry and the addition of such units to the SIF will be a great asset. Other nations can contribute specialist troops. For example, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland might all contribute mountain troops if they were needed.
Another advantage of this is that some allied nations often have better equipment than is supplied to US forces.
In essence, the units fielded by the US and some other nations will form a cadre of hardware and skills which will be expanded by the addition of allied and local personnel.
(Since I first wrote the last passage the UK and USA has demonstrated that they are willing to launch aggressive action without UN mandate. Rightly or wrongly, the US people also have a considerable distrust of the UN. Irrespective of this the SIF must be designed with the capability to operate alongside local forces and those of other nations.)
SIF Advisor/Training Cadre.
This component will provide advice and training in counter-guerrilla techniques, security measures, military and civil engineering and healthcare. Personnel in this component will be selected for their practical teaching ability, linguistic capability and tolerance for the ways of other cultures.
Part of the military component is likely to be drawn from Green Beret Special Forces, although others units will also provide suitably skilled personnel. The skill base of some Reservists and National Guards may prove useful for non-military fields of knowledge and it is also likely that some civilians may be used.
SIF Mechanized Infantry Battalion.
A variant of the Medium Mechanized Infantry Battalions detailed elsewhere.
Along with the light infantry these are likely to be the main workhorses of the combat elements of the SIF. SIF Mechanized Infantry (SMI) are mounted on M113 IFVs equipped with ASP cannon, wing guns and applique armour. As well as traditional infantry roles they can also operate as Light Tracked Cavalry.
Support Elements for the SMI battalion include:-
Medium Mechanized Infantry Battalions will probably be formed from MuRo configuration Infantry Battalions suitably patched. It is also possible that at least one full-time SMI regiment will also exist so as to provide a force equipped and practiced in CO-IN operations that can be deployed on short notice. It is also likely that some MuRo battalions will be rotated through a phase of SIF training and readiness.
- Close support platoon of five to eight Tankitas, two vehicles to be armed with 30mm GAU-13 cannon, the others 76/90mm guns. Flak tanks with 25mm Gatlings and Starstreak missiles are an alternative to the GAU-13 Tankita. Until Tankitas are available this platoon will be equipped with M113s mounting twined 106mm RCLRs.
- Heavy mortar platoon equipped with 120mm Assault Gun-mortars. Until these are available M1064 mortar carriers will be used
- Medium mortar platoon. Equipped with 81mm M252s mounted on M125 (M113) carriers. These can be used as self propelled systems, but their main role is to provide support in areas where the battalion has to operate dismounted.
SIF Cavalry Battalion.
The SIF Cavalry battalion is the main offensive ground maneuver force of the SIF, exploiting its mobility and considerable organic firepower.
The SIF Cavalry battalion is essentially a compact mini-army with its own armour, infantry, engineers, artillery and air-power. To steal a phrase from Col. Douglas MacGregor, a unit of "nodal combat power for a non-linear battlefield". Since all the personnel are from the same unit this will be a highly cohesive and coordinated fighting force.
This unit is the Medium Cavalry formation modified for SIF needs and it is likely several SIF Cavalry Battalions will be organic to SIF as a permanent COIN force. It is designated a "Battalion" rather than a "Squadron" to prevent confusion when operating alongside non-American forces.
The proposed structure of this unit illustrates three principles that will need to be observed to make the SIF combat arms decisive.
A SIF Cavalry Battalion has four ground companies as described below and a helicopter company with AH-6 Scout-attack helicopters and ACH-47 Heavy lift/gunships.
- Superior Firepower. This is achieved not with sophisticated high-tech weapons that are still in development, but by using appropriate existing systems such as 30mm ASP cannon, 120mm mortars, HEP/HESH and Flechette rounds, Hydra FFARs and EFOGM.
- Capability to operate in small, independent but highly mobile and effective formations.
- Adequate manpower. To quote Mr. Zumbro-"LIC ops require a lot more brush beating and door opening than conventional war. This is going to require plain old manpower"
The HQ company includes CSS, a scout platoon (light vehicles or foot), an infantry platoon and a motor transport platoon with sufficient assets to move an infantry company. The battalion support weapons includes a battery of towed 105mm light guns with Mortar locating radar.
The Battalion's major weapon systems include M8 Artanks, M113s, Tankitas, Scout-Attack AH-6 helicopters, Transporter/Gunbus ACH-47 helicopters and EFOGM.
SIF Cavalry Ground Companies.
Headquarters Element of the company includes CSS (Supply, mess, medical, maintenance etc) and a Motor transport squad. There is a light motorized scout squad and infantry squad for Command Post security. These two squads may alternate in roles to give the scouts and rest and prevent the sentries becoming jaded.
There are two engineer squads and a platoon of 120mm SP mortars or Assault gun/mortars. A squad of engineers and a section of mortars will usually travel with each Demi-company. Such a developed Headquarters is needed since units may operate in independent formations of demi-company size or smaller.
Each Ground company has:-
- Tankita platoon of four vehicles,
- Two tank platoons of five Artanks each,
- Two infantry platoons of five M113-IFVs.
- Two Engineer Squads in M113 ESVs.
- Platoon of 120mm Assault Gun Mortars.
- Platoon support sections.
The IFVs will probably be the stretched variant of M113 and carry 11 man squads. An Artank and IFV will pair up and train, live and fight as a pair, supporting each other as an armour/infantry team.
SIF Artillery Batteries.
Since the Artanks can be used in place of SPHs, the artillery contingent of the SIF will mainly be equipped with the towed 105mm Light Gun, since this can be easily moved by helicopter. This gives the SIF Batteries the capability to be used for "Artillery Raids"
In addition to these guns, batteries will also be equipped with several 2.75"rocket launcher systems either mounted on trailers or on the back of HMMWVs or M1108s. (or even trailers placed on the back of such vehicles).
Artillery must be used prudently. Carlton Meyer writes:-
"Something I learned from the Philippine Army: don't attach artillery to counterinsurgency units. Those units will use them when they make contact, and kill and enrage the locals. Yes heavy firepower may save American lives in the short run, but when you destroy a village in order to save it from "terrorists I guess", then you've helped recruit dozens of new terrorists who will kill even more Americans.
While Rules of Engagements are disliked, the Army should impose a no airstrike or indirect fire (artillery and mortars) near any buildings unless a unit is about to be overrun. The Army has adopted the "bombard and occupy" method of warfare, which cannot be used in peacekeeping. You can't destroy several houses just because someone inside is firing an AK-47 at you. Infantrymen must fire and maneuver, just like SWAT teams".
Escort and Patrol Formations.
E&P units are specialist units responsible for the defence of convoys and security of road systems. Some MP companies may be equipped for the E&P role, but some units of Sustainment battalions will also be trained and equipped for E&P.
Equipment of the E&P formations will include the RSV Ridgeback.
SIF Light Horse
Even in the 21st century, there are still many parts of the world where the horse is still the best means of transport. As recently as Afghanistan, American forces are using horses. An SIF brigade would probably include mounted units for scouting and tracking, often operating in conjunction with armour and aircraft.
This unit would be effectively Mounted Infantry, although training would include firing and fighting from horseback were necessary. Squadron strength massed charges with sabres drawn are not likely, but where expedient patrols may conduct small unit charges against contacts. In the past such tactics have proven useful with as little as four horses.
One of the historic names for a unit that can fight both mounted and dismounted was "Light Horse". "Rough Riders" is another good name for such a unit.
Ralph Zumbro expands on the concept of modern horse soldiers on this page.
The SIF will also make great use of dogs. The dog has a different sensory mix to a man, and looks at the world differently. Dogs will prove useful for tracking, and locating ambushes, booby traps and mines. In both combat and disaster relief missions they can find the injured. Attack dogs will have various duties, including guarding SIF bases.
"You need some way of sorting out combatants from non-combatants. The days of uniformed and organized units are past - soldiers and civilians meld together. The days when battles are fought in empty cities are over. Local civilians have nowhere to go to and will stay in place. To find the combatants, Russians had to resort to searching the pockets of civilians and examining them. Soldiers would look for bruises on the shoulder from weapon recoil, for powder burns on forearms, or for a silver lining around cuffs (from mortar or artillery propellant bags). They also smelled clothing for gunpowder and gun oil and looked for traces of it under fingernails or on arms or legs. Trained sniffer dogs were used, but were not always effective.
Nevertheless, dogs probably are the best way to determine if a person has been using explosives or firing a weapon recently. "
As well as specialist dogs in tracking and engineering units it is probable that many infantry platoons will acquire a couple of attack dogs.
The SIF force will often contain allied units that have a different TOE to that of US forces.
An interesting effect of this is that Brigade command will probably have specialist units intended to boost the capabilities of such units, and terms such as "Machine Gun Company" will reappear on organizational charts. Many of these formations will be organic to SIF and will also have a training role. Some of the personnel are likely to be Green Beret Heavy-Weapons Specialists.
Machine Gun Company.
This formation will in fact contain .50 HMGs and grenade launchers such as the Mk-19 or OCSW. Will probably be attached to units in squad or platoon strength.
Anti-tank Missile and Rifle Company.
This is another Reinforcement unit. Each platoon is mounted on jeeps or HMMWVs since their main function is to operate dismounted in a defensive role. A platoon has Three TOW (or Spike) launching posts and two 106mm RCLR although crews are cross trained and this ratio of weapons can be varied to suit different tactical situations.
For COIN missions the RCLRs are likely to prove more useful than the ATGWs. By issuing LAHAT guided rounds for the 106mm there may be little requirement for dedicated ATGW launchers.
The company may have a squad equipped with Heavy AMRs such as the NTW20. As well as being attached to ATGM and RCLR crews the AMR teams might be used for other missions.
Flak Tank Company.
What kind of a threat from hostile aircraft the SIF may face is hard to predict. Many "Small" nations still have significant numbers of Migs that while old are still effective. The use of light aircraft in Biafra illustrates that it is not just the latest warplanes that can be a threat.
The Flak Tank Company is equipped with Blazer turrets mounted on M113s -effectively a 25mm equivalent of the M163 20mm Vulcan with Stinger missiles added. The Israelis still use the Macbet, a M163 with SAMs.
If there is no airborne threat the 25mm Gatlin cannon will prove equally useful against ground targets and the Stinger pods can be replaced by Hydra packs. These M113s will be fitted with additional armour and defensive systems to make them more effective in the ground fighting role, hence them being termed "tanks". The Italian SIDAM vehicle (also based on a M113) is a good alternate system. The Swedish 40mm lvkv 90 is another useful system.
Towed ADA force.
There is also a niche for a unit of towed ADA systems. These will mainly be for the defence of airfields, firebases etc.
The system that I am thinking of is a sort of hybrid of the M45 Quad .50 mount and the Avenger system mounted on a trailer. This system is described in more detail here
The towed M167 20mm cannon may also be deployed by this unit and used in the same way.
The following are not SIF formations, but units that have been proposed for the "Regular" army that may be attached to the SIF and prove useful.
Gun And Missile Battalion (GAMB)
Battalion equipped with multi-purpose ATGMs and Anti-tank guns. Can be used to increase the anti-armour capability of a brigade. Battalion's weapon system also have other applications such as point defence and counter battery work.
Carrier Attachment Battalion. (CAB)
Formerly know as a TAB or Tracked Armoured Battalion. The CAB is a unit of M113s that can be attached to a non-mechanized force, such as allied or local light infantry to provide it with light track armoured mobility. Each company of a CAB is configured to move a battalion of infantry or the equivalent.
When not transporting infantry the CAB crews are trained to operate as Light Tracked Cavalry if necessary.