A Spear point is little use without a shaft to move it and a body behind it
A military formation can be thought of as a form of organism. Like any organism it consumes resources to do its work. Parts become injured or damaged and must be replaced. If this is not done then the organism will weaken and eventually be unable to perform its task.
Logistics and Supply is not a particularly glamorous element of the military world, but it is also true to say that good logistical services have often been a far more decisive contribution to victory than superior weapon systems.
One of the most effective ways to supply a modern formation is by helicopter. A column of trucks is limited to a few predictable routes and being (usually) unarmoured is vulnerable to guerrillas with relatively simple armaments. A helicopter formation, on the other hand, has a far wider choice of routes and usually requires more sophisticated means of attack. If the flight path is over territory already visited by ground forces then most such systems will have been driven out or destroyed. However, helicopter resupply does not remove the need for stores carrying vehicles. A combat formation requires some means to carry the ammo, food, water and fuel with it in between re-supplies. And it is here that a discrepancy becomes apparent. Although one of the heaviest MBTs to ever see widespread service, the Abrams M1 is also capable of great speed, so much so that M113s have been given the A3 upgrade to allow them to keep pace with Abrams equipped formations. Likewise we are told that vehicles such as the Bradley have sufficient cross country mobility to keep up with the Abrams. However, a task force of Abrams and Bradleys, with M113A3s in support still moves most of its stores on wheeled trucks. Such trucks do not have the cross country capability of tracked vehicles, which means one of three things:-
EITHER the formation slows down to the speed of its slowest element, the supply trucks. OR the formation selects routes where the trucks can stay on roads making them more vulnerable to attack. OR the formation allows the trucks to fall behind and form a "tail" again vulnerable to attack.
The conclusion is obvious.
A combat formation must have logistical elements of at least equal mobility to its combat elements.
Some formations have already taken steps in this direction. SPH batteries are accompanied by FAASV. What is needed is a "Log-Track" or tracked truck to meet other CSS needs. If the CSS can keep up, they no longer become a "tail", but a "stomach". Like a stomach they are in the centre of the body and keep the body powered. In the centre of a formation they are better defended, and the vehicle machineguns can contribute to local air defence. The taskforce would travel with its CSS stomach in its centre and be "fed" by helicopter or airborne re-supply replenishing the loads the CSS carry In his article in G2mil Carlton Meyer suggests that a variant of the M992 FAASV might meet more general needs too. There are also several cargo versions of the M113:-
My personal choice would be a tracked transport vehicle of about 8t capacity. The World War Two German forces had half tracks ranging from 1tonners to 18tonners. The Sdkfz.7 8t was the usual prime mover for the 88mm. If they could build a 8t cross country vehicle then (and also 12t and 18t vehicles), we should be able to now. I'm thinking that such a vehicle would have a self loading system of two hydraulic arms to pull pallets up onto the bed a bit like the PLS system, but by using two arms that attach to the side it can pull up more than one pallet. Put a cross bar between the arms and it can haul standard PLS pallets and containers if they are within weight.
The vehicle used in the Israeli Soltam Rascal SPH might also form a useful basis for a 8 ton tracked transporter.
I envision certain "battle supplies" should be prepacked in "tactical pallets" of no more than 4t. Ideally this should be done long before they reach the theatre. One such pallet can be lifted by a UH-60 -larger helicopters can move multiples. (I've several ideas on how to join them together, but will wait for my $advance$ from the Pentagon). The 8t Log-track can therefore carry two such loads, volume permitting, and can load them just by backing up to the pallets and attaching the loading arms. Such pallets could also be airdropped. Some of these pallets might be armoured containers, and some would be liquid tight to carry fuel or water.
Fold down armoured sides have been suggested for "tracked trucks", and such an option may be more versatile than armouring the tactical pallets. This feature would also allow tracked trucks to be used to transport "straight leg" infantry between positions. Simple firing ports can be created by giving the top edge of the armoured sides "U" shaped cuts, as has been done with the South African Buffel vehicle. An APC roof could also probably be fitted to the vehicle without hindering its cargo carrying role.
An interesting idea mentioned by Larry Altersitz in his G2mil article on airmobile artillery systems is that a flatbed M113 variant with a PLS-type loading system could carry a pallet mounted 105mm Howitzer. Larry may not realise it, but this is the German Waffentrager- Grille idea. Idea was to have a vehicle that could operate as an SP-gun but could also leave its weapon in a static position, the vehicle then serving as a supply tractor. One capability of such a vehicle that would be useful now is that the gun and its transport could be moved by separate helicopter lifts. I've already suggested that there is no reason that lighter 105mm SPHs are not possible, but the system that Larry suggests may be portable by helicopters smaller than Chinooks. Another excellent suggestion by Carlton Meyer is that Armoured Battalions have a Tracked Logistic Company can consisting of 32 tracked vehicles: ten fuel tankers, eight ammo, four maintenance, two medical/rescue, two engineer, two water purification, two water tankers, and two tank retrievers. The water tankers might also serve as Fire fighting vehicles and Water Cannon.
Another form of tracked combat logistic vehicle that I've suggested in other articles is the Assault Gun Support System. This is an IFV that carries assault gun ammo instead of infantry and serves as both resupply vehicle to an assault gun and "wingman". The AGSV would probably have some form of palette loading system and some form of ramp or chute to quickly reload its sister vehicle. Such a vehicle could also be used with other systems such as MBTs.
So far I've talked about supply to combat units of around battalion size. Higher level CSS units will probably still use trucks for the majority of there transport, but there are no real reasons why such columns should not be better defended. In other articles I've suggested systems such as better protected trucks and road security formations. While researching this article I came across some comments on the German army's logistics system in World War Two, which was noted for its efficiency:-
The Germans used a simple administration with few and clearly defined spheres of responsibility, a basic structure which could be rapidly expanded or contracted as the military situation demanded, and that was flexible enough to utilise any local resources. The two functions of transport and handling were clearly separated. Divisions and higher formations had standardised transport columns. Corps and Divisions had special handling units known as supply companies. Army level these were battalion strength. These units provided labour to unload or load transport vehicles and incorporated special administration platoons. Supplies were taken as far forward as possible without transhipment.
Right down to company level units had special administrators who were responsible for organising pay, billets and all supplies with the exception of munitions. These men dressed as officers and had infantry training but had their own independent career and promotion structure
FEEDBACK Larry Altersitz writes:- "The 4t pre-packed log-pack is a good idea. It allows for "push" logistics, where things are "pushed" to units without them asking for things. They cover the basic needs: ammo, food, fuel, water. Specific requests can be filled at a division/corps site, or on a ship, then moved via transportation assets to the requesting unit. If you incorporate a simple transmitter with an encrypted signal, "empties" could be recovered by CSS assets and re-used."
PW: Supply depots will doubtless have empty tactical pallets hanging around that can be loaded with "custom" orders. I very much like the idea of the transmitter. This could actually be programmed with information on what the pallet contains, allowing it to be located more easily in a depot or giving the CSS units feedback of what a particular unit are using the most of. I'm actually considering a 2t limit on the weight of a tactical pallet, since this load can be carried by a M1097 HMMWV. Therefore a UH-60 can lift two pallets and a CH-47D four or five. One pallet can be carried by a M1097, three by a M1108, four by my proposed 8 tonner etc.
Further Thoughts The mention of half tracks makes me wonder if the logistical track mission could be performed by a half-track. Ralph Zumbro assures me that half-tracks are far more complicated beasts than something like the M113 FOV. This makes me wonder why anyone bothered with half-tracks in the first place? This topic does give me the excuse to include the following sites.
UPDATE Larry Altersitz adds I haven't heard anyone talk about an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) for any current Army tracked/wheeled combat/support vehicle. Seems to be a real need (if space can be found) for a 5hp/kW APU to keep the electronics/electrical systems going while waiting. Reduced heat signature, less fuel consumption, etc.
PW: Oddly, this coincides with some thoughts I had last night. Just read the two new articles up on Ralph Zumbro's page -and another article explains how useful an APU is for LIC, BTW. What I was thinking about was trailers. In WW2 the Royal Engineers used gutted Universal carriers as trailers behind their tanks. In fact these were often new Universals that were never fitted with engines, seats etc. Such a trailer could carry 2 tons, and had some small arms and splinter protection. Sadly, no Universals now -but what about a box on a Wiesel chassis, or half a BV206? You could tow this behind a tank or M113, but not so easy to manhandle over short distances, so I thought -Auxilary motor, like some field guns. Make this auxilary system hybrid electric and you've got a nice little handy diesel generator
Ralph Zumbro: The standard mount for the MICLIC line charge is a tracked trailer. Normally pulled by a M113 full of combat engineers.....Will also remove an infantry company in assault formation, as well as a minefield.
Scott makes a good case for having a one ton basic tactical pallet, since it is easier to manhandle and can be carried by the lighter HMMWVs. His 7.5t pallet could be lifted by CH-53s, and is most likely to contain 1t pallets for easy handling.
Ralph Zumbro: Very early in my association with company HQ, we developed the practice which later developed into what was called a "push package" Briefly, we kept several Huey sized slingloads which would feed a tank section and its attendant infantry, in slings, under canvas in the company LZ. Because I was a combat experienced tanker, I KNEW what would be needed. When any of our roving troublemakers got contact, I was outa the tent and airborne as soon as the bird(s) got there. We vectored in on the commotion (smoke and tracers) and landed where the TCs had thrown colored smoke. I can remember several times this was done with NO RADIO COMMO. The operation became that smooth. I just looked at Capt. Allen, saluted and said "Gone, Capn," jumped in the bird and left. Ten minutes later, I was in a hot LZ slinging ammo and C-rats. There was a Chinook behind me in the air with more stuff and a fuel blivit hanging from its belly.....I could truthfully say that we had our shit together. The wounded went into the supply choppers on the return trip.
I'm gonna probably be repeating this well into the next incarnation. ARMED TRANSPORT HAS GOT TO BE TAKEN DOWN TO THE VEHICLE CREW LEVEL! What this boils down to is that using a five tonner as a basic unit, part of the load capacity of 10 tons (road) and 5 tons (offroad) has to be devoted to self protection and commo. They used to make mini-mores that would mount on hard spots like bumpers. Next you need crew kevlar and armored doors. The .50 ring should have a ASP 30mm with a 5.56 coax. There should be a radio mounted permanently on the vehicle and mine plates should be under the driver/VC compartment. The Vehicle Commander mans the .50/30mm ring. Next, you add 4 PERMAMENTLY ASSIGNED cargo handler/maintainence techs to the vehicle. You now have a heavily armed fire team that can handle cargo. Remember that the HEMMT has a built in cargo arm. Add an armed, cohesive crew, and we have something that can be used as the foundation of a heavy transport company...Might need to let a Major command it, as they will be going in the far places.
Nick Minecci: I was a 46q for my 11 years in, that is a journalist. I served most of my time in the XVIII Airborne Corps, and did about a dozen NTC/JRTC rotations, with light and heavy forces, as well as with MSBs and FSBs. In the 1st ID in Germany I was the beat reporter for the DISCOM, and spent almost all my time with the MSB units. Yes, I was PAO, but I was a field PAO, not a desk one -- I hope you all know the difference. One thing that struck me was the shock that units showed when I arrived in my Humvee and we had radios. That is a sad state that these units that convoy (the LOG units) don't ALL have a radio. That is not a money issue, that is a failure to see the small things issue. Anpther problem is the fact that many of these vehicles are riding just two people. When they get ambushed, there is no time to react. Add to that the fact the shotgun in the humvee or truck usually has their weapon in a position so that it takes a valuable two to three seconds to even get it ready for action.
LTC Larry Altersitz: ".......there is a need for a less logistics intensive force. If we converted M1s in groups/regiments/brigades to diesel, we reduce a major problem. We go with tracked support vehicles pulling tracked trailers. We use Navy LCACs and smaller ACVs to get trailer of supplies forward, away from the MSR, and return with the empties. We also need to do a map recon and plan to cross water barriers. This is where M113s are invaluable. The thought process for tracked supply vehicles/trailers should be "Quo Vadis, Bde CO?" and they should be amphibious like M113s. Are there simple ways to make vehicles less aquatically challenged in the future?
We need to have a dedicated corps level MP battalion unit to patrol, direct traffic and protect the MSR by using armed UAVs to ride herd on potential strays and be pro-active to activity that might be enemy forces of any type. Where the MSR turns, there's a traffic control point. Several platoons of infantry in Blackhawks with Cobras on "strip alert" can provide more muscle if needed.
CS/CSS units need to be better able to:
A. READ MAPS & USE GPS.
B. Protect themselves with weapons like mini-claymores on vehicles.
C. Reaction drills on breaking ambushes.
D. A 911 GPS radio system that is button activated by any one of several people in the vehicle to send a signal over several channels to the MP monitoring station. This tells the MPs to get a UAV there pronto; while the radio is on, it picks up the sounds in the area to give people an idea if it's time to send the airmobile "Cavalry" to the rescue.
Keep explaining this is a war zone and that "Defecation Occurs" as we staff wienies like to put it. Try to get people to understand that accidents will happen, also, and keep a little perspective on things. Too often, people don't see the forest for the trees."