Reorganizing the Military.
An Alternate Military System
Over the previous decades I have looked at various elements of military systems. For this article it is my intention to look at things more broadly. Once again, it may be expedient to study this topic in the context of a hypothetical nation, which I will call “Westenra”
Many human institutions are grown rather than designed. Even those deliberately designed often grow into unintended configurations over time.They can become highly resistant to change and slow to adapt to new conditions. The military of most nations consist of an army, navy and air force. Many resources seem to be duplicated. If we were presented with a “blank sheet”, how might this structure change?
One nation that has abandoned a conventional military structure is Panama. It has a paramilitary police force for law enforcement and a border guard force. The border guard seems to be an infantry-type force fielding weapons up to HMGs, RPGs and mortars. Border guard forces that are capable of operating as infantry battalions are found in a number of other nations. The border guard of Panama includes a fluvial unit for river patrol.
There previously existed a Panamanian Judicial and Technical Police (PTJ) for investigatory activities, but this was later split into the Judicial Investigation Directorate (DIJ), and a group of minor technical services under the General Attorney’s control. The customs, immigration and passport services were merged into a single body.
The above forces are supported by the National Aeronaval Service, which operates maritime patrol boats, fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. The aircraft are used for patrol, transport and liaison.
Westenran Ground Forces
It seems probable that a considerable proportion of a future professional military force will consist of integrators (officers, logistics managers) and technicians (signals, electronic warfare, maintenance, engineering, etc).
An effective training cadre will be needed if certain arms are to be easily expanded during time of need.
The infantry is the primary combat arm of the Westenran ground forces.
The infantryman is one of the oldest of troop types, yet his role has continued to change over the centuries. The modern infantryman may be called upon to serve in a wide range of duties, some of which the traditional military mind considers as “unconventional”. It seems probable that military operations that constitute major theatre war (MTW) are likely to be the exception rather than the rule for the foreseeable future. Missions such as security, counter-terrorism and disaster aid are more likely. Training places considerable emphasis on small-unit operations. Enemy firepower is countered by “net” tactics, the infantry serving to “observe, report and harass”.
On another page I have discussed ways that an infantry company can be reorganized to be more flexible. Some “police training” should be included, even if units are not given official status as gendarmes.
Outside the English-speaking sphere, paramilitary forces that are intermediate between police and infantry are relatively common. Examples include the French Gendarmes, Italian Carabinieri, Guardia Civil and Brazilian Polícia Militar. While there is currently much pointless bet-wetting about the police looking military, the modern infantryman could benefit from acquiring a few “cop skills”. In the future, military operations in urban terrain and among civilian populations are likely to be the norm rather than the exception.
In Westenra, the jaeger infantry, military police and Gamma security units are the most likely to be given gendarmes status.
The armoured forces are the backbone of the Westenran armoured brigades and Mobile Reserve. They also provide the carrier attachment battalions that are used to “patch” the infantry and other branches. The armoured corps includes its own organic infantry-role force, the “armoured pioneers”. The role of the armoured pioneers includes reconnaissance and obstacle removal, so they have some engineering training.
Westenra’s Armoured brigades form part of the Mobile Reserve, which forms a deterrent against large-scale raiding or intrusion by hostile neighbours. The Mobile Reserve also has a counter-insurgency role.
Unlike many nations, Westenra choose to not develop its own model of MBT. Instead it created a tracked, multi-role family of vehicles with both lightweight and heavily-armoured variants. These versatile vehicles see many applications in non-MTW missions.
Westenra is investigating various strategies for increasing the strategic mobility of its armoured forces, including high-speed road-transporters, rail transports and heavy-lift STOL and rotary-wing platforms.
The responsibility of the artillery branch includes local air-defence and operating long-range anti-tank weapons. Most infantry and armoured brigades have very little organic artillery. Instead, artillery batteries, battalions and brigades are attached to a force if their expected mission requires such support. This policy allows the nation to field a smaller but better-equipped artillery contingent. An artillery brigade includes an infantry-role security element. Traditionally such troops would be designated “fusiliers”.
Many artillery systems are mounted on light-tracked transports which can be easily air or helicopter-lifted to locations where they can be used to good effect. Other systems are based on pallets or ISOs, permitting rapid movement and deployment by road systems.
While primarily a MTW asset, precision artillery weapon systems have applications for other operations, The artillery also provides UAV systems that can be used for reconnaissance, intelligence-gathering and surveillance.
“Reconnaissance” covers a very wide field, so for the moment I will limit my discussion to combat-reconnaissance. I will class combat-reconnaissance as information for which you are prepared to fight. It should not be confused with “reconnaissance by fire”, although reconnaissance by fire is a type of combat-reconnaissance by the above definition.
In “BAR Special Report - USSR/Russia Volume 1 2017” p.92, Richard E. Simpkin observes (in 1982) that: “I believe we must now accept that medium armoured reconnaissance as such has been supplanted, on the one hand by the helicopter [and other aircraft, manned or otherwise] and on the other by electronic devices and specially trained and equipped men on their feet.”
The provision of helicopter, UAV and long-range sensor reconnaissance will be addressed in later sections. Currently, the primary system for combat-reconnaissance at ground level is the dismounted soldier. We may soon get to the day when sensors and drones have reached a level where this changes, but that day is not with us yet. The primary theatre-level ground combat-reconnaissance system is therefore the infantryman or armoured pioneer.
Medium reconnaissance is conducted by manoeuvre forces rather than specialist reconnaissance formations. A number of specialist reconnaissance ground vehicles are in use, but these are found in infantry and armoured forces rather than their own battalions. Armoured vehicles take the dismounted men to where they are needed, provide fire support and act as base-stations for sensors and unmanned reconnaissance systems.
At a strategic and operational level, the ground combat reconnaissance mission is usually assigned to special forces, effectively highly-trained and well-equipped infantry. Strategic and operational-level intelligence will also originate from various “non-uniform” and non-human sources.
The use of infantry, armour, special forces and artillery depends on the support of the engineers, logistics and signals services. The signals force is responsible for C4I, SIGINT and related fields such as electronic warfare (EW). Most battalions have a small detachment of signals personnel and they will form a significant contingent of brigade and higher HQ units. The signals corps may maintain its own technical maintenance unit or this may be from the maintenance division of the logistics corps/branch.
The logistics corps/branch/service will contain a number specialist divisions including transportation, maintenance, ordinance/armoury, catering and QM/supply. Some of these units will have infantry-role escort and patrol (E&P) companies responsible for depot and convoy security. E&P personnel will also be used as cargo-handlers and other general duties.
The logistics corps itself will be a component of the logistics directorate/ministry, which is responsible for facilitating logistical support to all of the military services. The navy, air force and possibly the medical branch are likely to have their own specialist logistical services, but these are likely to rely on ground/army logistics units for services such as transportation of materials. The army logistics corps therefore has an “all service” role.
The army, navy, marines and air force will all require medical services, and an argument can be made for having this as a single entity that provides service to all of the other services. The military medical service (MMS) would include nursing, dentistry and veterinary sections, and also handle the training of combat personnel such as battlefield medics. The MMS may have “a foot in each camp”. In times of relative peace, MMS personnel may supplement the staff of civilian medical institutions. This allows MMS personnel to acrue considerable practical experience.
Military Administrative Service
Services such as personnel, finance and legal might also be handled by an “all services department”. Many of the administration personnel need not be military. The military administrative service would be a mix of civilians and active or retired service personnel.
The military police are another branch that may work for all three services, replacing specific service police units such as the air force police and navy police. Military police may serve in the civilian sector for similar reasons to that which have been suggested for the MMS. Such arrangements are already seen in some nations, where the military police has a significant civil role and their combat role may be secondary. Such forces may serve as an intermediate level between use of the police and the domestic deployment of the army.
Recruitment for the Westeran military police may be from the army, navy, air force and marines. The military police are part of the Military Provost Service, which includes a number of other units. One such unit would be an infantry-role/ gendarme security force (“Gamma” ) responsible for guarding military installations and other sensitive areas. A specialist technical section of this unit would be responsible for the design and inspection of security systems. Other specialist units include the VIP protection section and the Hostage Rescue Teams (HRT). HRT are available to support civilian police.
The Provost Service is also responsible for staffing the military prison. Westenra has only one military prison. Military personnel convicted of criminal offences are discharged into civilian prisons. The military prison deals with disciplinary offences, and attempts to “turn bad soldiers into good ones”. It is debatable whether the Military Provost Service would be an army unit or an independent or semi-independent entity.
The above is not intended to be a fully comprehensive list. The Chemical Corps. includes specialists such as CBRN decontamination and CBRN reconnaissance. A military or military-civilian scientific body will be needed for testing and selecting new equipment. Administration and staffing for military education and training centres will be needed. The training force will include an expeditionary unit (“Alpha”) for training foreign militaries in their own countries.
Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)
There is a wise maxim that “time spent on reconnaissance is never wasted” and that “the price of peace is eternal vigilance”. Most endeavours, military or otherwise, benefit from some reconnaissance and research beforehand. Even a static infantry or artillery position should have roving patrols, listening posts and OPs. A nation with a purely defensive foreign policy will still need to conduct reconnaissance and other intelligence-gathering activities.
Intelligence relies on data and information, and this can originate from many sources, many of them “non-military”. The challenge is not just collecting such data, but processing it and getting it to where it is most useful. Currently, for many nations, this process is often complicated by the existence of multiple agencies, inter-service rivalries and jurisdictional jockeying. Westenra believes a better approach is a single intelligence service. This includes army, navy and air force personnel, along with those from intelligence agencies and civilian specialists such as detectives, data-miners and forensic accountants. This service processes both military and civil intelligence, passing actionable information on to the relevant police or military force.
Despite the use of satellites, drones and other high-tech means, HUMINT remains an important source of strategic reconnaissance. An ununiformed individual with a camera phone can sometimes be far more effective than a squad of armed commandos. Special forces may be used for such missions, although they may often be more effective if the agent appears “unsoldierly”. During the Second World War the Soviets are known to have given children aged from 8 to 14 a formal four-week training courses to prepare them for such work.
Criminal Investigation Service
In concord with the above philosophy, Westenra has worked to form a single criminal investigation service that will form a component of the national intelligence service. All police detectives would be part of the criminal investigation service. Law enforcement and public order would be the responsibility of uniformed and plain clothes (non-detective) police officers. The investigation of crimes would be the province of the criminal investigation service, which would include technical support such as surveillance specialists and forensics. To benefit from their experience and local knowledge, many criminal investigation service detectives are recruited from police officers local to the region where they will serve. Being responsible for counter-espionage, some criminal investigation service personnel will be from the national intelligence service, and some national intelligence service personnel may be from the criminal investigation service.
Investigative activities and surveillance often detects terrorist activity while in its early (Mao’s “phase one”) stages.
In the West it is common to think of warfare as only being resolved by force. History is filled of examples where persuasion or subversion has proven more effective.
Military action is of no use if it fails to achieve the desired political objective. Any military operations must be accompanied by political, diplomatic, economic, psychological, media and memetic support. Legitimate grievances must be addressed where practical.
Influence is likely to come from a variety of sources, many of them “non-uniform”.
As large-scale military ground interventions are increasingly seen as impractical, inappropriate or counter-productive, the use of Westenran special forces has become more significant. Correctly applied, the use of special forces can be strategically decisive.
The Westenran special forces formation that conducts the majority of such missions is designated “Sigma” and is a component of the Strategic Commando Brigade (StratComB). Infiltration is the routine strategy, and the clandestine or covert nature of most missions means that Sigma field operators are as much intelligence agent as soldier. Special operations “out of uniform” (in mufti) are likely to become the norm, if not so already.
Only a relatively small proportion of the Strategic Commando Brigade are field units. The majority of brigade personnel are signals, intelligence and technical support, with a variety of organic transport assets. Field personnel and support assets are recruited from more than one service.
Closely associated with Sigma are the Maritime Special Warfare Group (MSWG). The majority of its personnel are marines or navy. This has an additional domestic anti-terrorist role for situations that suit its special skills and equipment. The MSWG is supported by the Maritime Special Transport Detachment which operates a variety of surface and underwater vessels.
In “Race to the Swift” (p.316-319), Richard E. Simpkin suggests an application of special forces in three phases, which mirror Mao’s three phases of revolutionary war. In a counter-insurgency operation, phase one is primarily non-violet and involves information gathering and winning hearts and minds. It may include actions such as the arrest of ringleaders or seizure of arms caches. While special forces will contribute ISR to this phase, the majority of information gathering is likely to be by agents and police. If the enemy progress to phase two, the special forces and supporting elements move to a quasi-guerrilla phase, attacking insurgent centres of gravity and disrupting enemy operations. This is complimented by “influence operations” (qv). Phase three sees special forces directing more conventional assets such as air and artillery strikes or assaults by larger ground, amphibious and air-mechanized forces. In an offensive operation against a hostile nation a similar approach is used, preferably only using phase one or phase two levels of pressure. Westenran military inverventions are a dagger rather than a sledge-hammer.
Westenra has a number of other special forces, some of which are effectively “special-purpose forces”. Most of these undergo some training by Sigma, MSWG or both.
Even a nation that has a defensive foreign policy may encounter a need to project military force to a distant location overseas.
The ground element of the Westenran expeditionary forces constitutes detachments from the Westenran Marines, Airborne and Air-Mobile brigades. Marines, Airborne and Air-Mobile are all air-mechanized with attached artillery systems. Their primary role is to support operations conducted or initiated by special forces. A marine taskforce can be positioned off-shore of a potential trouble spot as a visible warning and statement of commitment. Airborne forces are deployed from Westenra or a friendly nation, and delivered by airliner or military transports, as appropriate. Air-mobile forces are deployed to reinforce and operate from an airhead or beachhead.
The Westenran Navy regards itself as an “aerosea” force and responsible for exploration as well as military operations. The bulk of its forces are submarines and surface patrol craft. A fleet of amphibious warfare vessels, which includes ACV and SWATH platforms, supports the Westenra Marines, who can be positioned globally to support special forces operations.
In the US military, the air force, navy, coast guard, army and marines all have sizeable contingents of aircraft. A hint of an alternate approach can be seen with the UK’s Joint Helicopter Command (JHC), which pools most of the nation’s attack and transport helicopters and their crews from the three services. Despite the name, the formation also operates some fixed-wing aircraft and UAVs. Ship-board helicopters are not controlled by the JHC, nor are RAF SAR helicopters.
In Westenra, the navy retains responsibility for operating all ship-board aircraft, be they manned or unmanned, fixed or rotary wing. Aircraft conducting maritime missions (patrol, ASW and SAR) from land and coastal bases, are operated by the air force. The navy retains responsibility for the operation of seaplanes and amphibians operated from coastal and land bases.
The air force conducts air patrols, ISTAR and air defence/superiority missions. The air patrol force includes Peacekeeper patrol interceptors, and the air force also maintains the small force of Raven stealth scouts. Air force responsibility for domestic air defence may also include it having responsibility for home-defence radar and SAM. The Westenran air force also operates the relatively small bomber force, although in practice many of their platforms are arsenal planes that launch long-range missiles, UAVs and glide-bombs rather than being traditional bombers. Some of the arsenal planes use the “stealth carrier” airframe, while others are based on airliners.
During operations, available navy and air force strike and reconnaissance aircraft are controlled by a single coordinating command body.
The responsibility for close air support (CAS) and the larger field of manoeuvre air support (MAS) is not so easily decided. In some nations, some in the air force and army want the army to be responsible for CAS, while others have the opposite view. A similar view probably exists in some navy and marine air forces. In Westerna, dedicated CAS and MAS platforms are currently operated by a tri-/quad-service M/CAS command. This is a sub-component of the central coordinating command for military aircraft.
The most radical change I would suggest for the reorganization of military air assets is for the majority of transport aircraft to be placed under the command of the logistics directorate. This service is responsible for moving personnel and materials about, so it is logical that it should have control over the majority of the trucks and cargo aircraft. The aircraft may be under a number of commands within the directorate, depending on if they are fixed or rotary-wing, short or long haul and tactical, operational or strategic transports.
The system suggested above will need some fine tuning. Some army units are air-mobile and require suitable aircraft to be co-located. These helicopters and/or STOL transports may be organic to the formation. In practice they may be a “permanent loan” from the logistic directorate, allowing damaged or inoperable aircraft to be easily substituted with others from the larger pool. The M/CAS command may operate the same system to provide an air-mobile unit with its allocation of attack helicopters.
Many of the peacetime missions of air-transport could be conducted by civilian sub-contractors. Possibly air transport command could include a contingent of approved civilian sub-contractors.
Patrol and Surveillance This is a sub-division of the air force that conducts peacetime air patrols, interceptions and internal security missions. It is responsible for airborne search and rescue operations.
Patrol and Surveillance is the primary operator of the Peacekeeper. They also operate a number of EMB 110/111-type aircraft, a type also used in various roles by Air Transport.
Combat and Strike Combat operates the fighter and bomber assets of the air force, although these are most likely to take the form of arsenal planes and stealth-scouts. Combat is also responsible for strategic reconnaissance and dedicated ground attack designs used for close support, such as Cassie and Buzzard.
Aircraft Maintenance A case can be made for an air command responsible for the servicing, supply and maintenance of aircraft. This may be a sub-division of the Logistics directorate/ministry suggested above.