Written by Colonel O. Metrov; Originally appeared at Foreign Military Review #10 2019, translated by AlexD exclusively for SouthFront
The worsening military and political situation in different regions of the world shows that the existing system of international and regional relations does not ensure equal security for all states. Many regional conflicts have not been resolved, and the tendency to resolve them by force continues. The United States and its NATO allies continue to attempt to maintain and build on their “global dominance” in the world, trying to find new and better forms and ways of military action against equal foes.
The result of such activities has been a series of new concepts that reveal approaches to the use of the ground component of the “One Force” (ground forces, marines and special operations forces), as well as define the tasks, forms and methods of fighting simultaneously in all operational environments in future military conflicts.
Thus, the emphasis is placed on increasing the information awareness of commanders at all levels, the comprehensive and efficiency of information delivery to the contractors, the ability of all technical means (including allies of the coalition) to function in a single information and communication space, which, according to the Pentagon, will achieve a decisive advantage over an equal in strength opponent.
The American concept papers set out the basic principles for the conduct of hostilities by interspecies or coalition groups in all operational environments: ground, air, sea and outer space (the physical environment). In addition, the confrontation environments are informational (radio frequency spectrum, virtual environment, in American terminology) and socio-cultural (cognitive).
The United States military experts consider primarily strong adversaries that pose a strategic threat to the national interest of the country. Such adversaries are primarily Russia and China.
The provisions of U.S. military concepts in the new environment should be implemented in three interrelated directions:
- to improve the system of advanced military presence, to organise the deployment of expeditionary forces, as well as to determine how to use the capabilities of allies to meet the challenges of deterring the enemy, preventing them from using hybrid warfare methods, as well as to defeat their forces in a short time;
- development of methods of application of interspecies groups of forces (forces) having in their structure the formations of a new type, capable to act in isolation and in isolation from the main forces (to conduct “semi-autonomous” actions, according to the American terminology);
- creating opportunities for rapid concentration of efforts (both military and political) at crucial moments in time on the main directions, i.e. “windows of opportunity” for the manoeuvre of troops (forces) groups. This refers to the combination of the enabling environment, factors and vulnerabilities to gain superiority over the enemy in various operating environments in order to capture, retain and use the initiative to defeat the enemy.
The Pentagon has proposed a new structure for the division of the geostrategic space, which makes it possible to visualise the principal provisions for the organisation and conduct of globally integrated operations, involving the coordinated use of forces and resources of various federal agencies in the operation.
The elements of the new geostrategic space division model in multi-sphere operations are:
- Area(s) of engagement of enemy rear targets (deep fire areas), which includes areas beyond the reach of general-purpose forces and facilities but where the use of firing, information, cyber and special operations forces is possible.
- Deep manoeuvre areas are areas disputed by the enemy where U.S. forces and their allies oppose and retaliate against enemy activities aimed at limiting the manoeuvre of their troops (forces).
- Areas of direct contact with the enemy (close areas).
In order to achieve superiority over the enemy, according to the U.S. Department of Defense experts, it is necessary to ensure a high rate of combat and manoeuvre in these areas, which will concentrate efforts at a critical time on the main front. Military operations are conducted in order to create conditions (“windows of opportunity”) to defeat the enemy, undermine its military potential, seize territory, and protect and influence the population.
- Support areas are areas of interaction between zone commands, areas where transport communications are located. The continental part of the U.S.A. is also included. The adversary, using strategic means of influence, will attempt to disrupt the movement of troops and reinforcements in the forward zones. At the operational level, it will use fire destruction and information warfare, that is the U.S. military and its allies will be within its range. The tactical area is home to control and communication points, support facilities, target effects and manoeuvre support.
Units and formations of the U.S. Army and their allies must resist attempts by the enemy to penetrate or break through.
Military experts believe that at the inception of the conflict (the stage of rivalry, in American terminology) the enemy will try to create the conditions necessary to achieve their goals without significant risk to their troops and internal stability. It is planned to prevent aggression at this stage by improving the system of advanced basing and applying the new type of formations.
It is planned to create formations that are capable of manoeuvring semi-autonomously in several environments, as well as of advancing from any point to the designated area. They will have the necessary firepower, mobility and intelligence assets to operate independently. They will also have precision weapon systems at their disposal to disrupt, weaken or neutralise the enemy’s capabilities. At this stage, according to American experts, the U.S. military has greater freedom of action in physical, information and socio-cultural environments and can create favourable conditions for further successful military operations.
At the initial stage of the military conflict they plan to defeat the enemy by focusing on the entire depth of the geostrategic space in order to influence the objects of their military potential (in the physical environment), the telecommunication structure (in the information environment) and in the interest of suppressing their will (in the socio-cultural environment).
This will allow the seizure of the initiative, force the enemy to move on the defensive and identify its weaknesses, as well as create “windows of opportunity” before they have time to react. At this stage of the conflict the groups of troops (forces) will make a strategic manoeuvre and move on the offensive, which will be supported by active intelligence in all spheres. To retain the initiative, according to the U.S. Department of Defense experts, it is necessary to conduct counterintelligence and destroy enemy strike systems.
Counter-intelligence consists of defeating and suppressing the enemy’s technical intelligence assets, as well as disrupting its communications systems. Formations of the U.S. military should pay special attention to the destruction of enemy intelligence strike systems, which can be used to prevent the manoeuvre of troops, as well as to fire at their most important objects.
Cyber forces, space forces, air defence and air defence systems are used to prepare active counter-intelligence measures. At the same time, air defence and missile defence elements allow the protection of facilities and groups of troops (forces) from enemy aerial reconnaissance in support areas, and units of general purpose forces, SDF and military police are responsible for security of important facilities (population groups, representatives of the leadership, military bases and civilian infrastructure) in the rear areas by identifying agent networks and enemy-controlled groups of influence. The actions of counter-intelligence structures should force the enemy to reduce the intensity of the use of strike systems, thus giving greater manoeuvrability to the U.S. army.
U.S. forces combine manoeuvre, reconnaissance and firing capabilities to destroy enemy strike systems. There is a concentration of efforts to create “windows of opportunity” in different areas, while protecting their own strike systems. As a result, conditions are created for the manoeuvrability of their troops and counteraction to fire, land and sea formations and elements of the air defence system. Such an approach is the main way to deal wit critical enemy drills.
The U.S. military must engage in firing contact with enemy systems by manoeuvring in semi-autonomous mode through the whole depth of the enemy’s forces operation structure. This forces it to react with counter-strikes, thereby revealing its firing positions. Air defence and missile defence facilities provide protection for Pentagon facilities and groups and allies from being hit by the opposing side’s strike systems.
But in the enemy’s rear, its systems can only be suppressed, not destroyed, as the capabilities of troops are limited due to the long range and high defensive capability. The high rate of manoeuvre and semi-autonomous actions of the new type of American formations forces the enemy to distribute firepower to defeat a large number of dynamically moving targets, which weakens its capabilities. U.S. military firepower should be aimed at effectively suppressing the enemy’s firing system in order to create a favourable manoeuvre environment for ground forces at a specific location and time. And the combination of “windows of opportunity” in various spheres will allow ground troops to disrupt the enemy’s plan of firing targets and destroy its intelligence and strike system in the area of direct contact and the depth of the orders of the opposing side.
American military experts believe that successful actions against the enemy’s ground forces in the immediate area of contact create difficult situations for the enemy.
U.S. forces, using “windows of opportunity” created by neutralising firing assets, approach the enemy to defeat them, capture or hold key terrain and destroy irreplaceable elements of their military capabilities. Formations of the new type use regular capabilities of lethal and non-lethal impact, manoeuvre support, intelligence and combat control. Defeating ground forces provides the Pentagon and its allies with additional mechanisms to influence, in particular, the forces of the enemy fleet.
The destruction of maritime groups is of particular importance in some operational theatres and is sometimes the only way to project combat strength at sea, on land and in the air. The U.S. Navy and allied forces are focusing on creating “windows of opportunities” in the maritime space to gain dominance over the sea and the coastal zone. The combination of sea raids and assault landing operations with ground forces gives the commander of an integrated group of troops (forces) the opportunity to have an effective impact on the enemy.
The elimination of air defence system elements is necessary to create “windows of opportunity” for the use of reconnaissance aircraft and other air assets against attack systems, ground formations and enemy fleet forces. The technological development of modern air defence facilities, their density and ability to quickly restore combat readiness do not allow creating long “windows of opportunity” in airspace. That is why semi-autonomous ground forces units are of great importance for supporting united groups deep in the enemy’s formations. The Pentagon believes that this will enable the U.S. military to conduct operations without having to break through the enemy’s air defence system. The main emphasis will be on the actions of ground forces.
The use of Special Operations Forces (SOF) is aimed at destroying enemy control points, air defence facilities and transport communications. They have an information-psychological impact (IPI) on the civilian population in order, inter alia, to gather information on the enemy’s intelligence activities and possible defeat of targets.
The SOF units may support or independently conduct operations to seize beachheads for the landing of major air or sea landing forces. The use of high-precision weapons can contribute to the suppression or weakening of the enemy’s capabilities or those of its forces under its control. They may also be used to support an information campaign for the United States and allied countries.
The concepts emphasize that the U.S. military must not allow the use of weapons of mass destruction by the enemy. They will use a full arsenal of conventional and special means not prohibited by international agreements to contain it, including an information campaign, in order to prevent the escalation of the conflict.
Information operations are conducted at all stages of the armed conflict. The IPT are conducted from the start of a conflict, when it is necessary to justify the need to invade countries whose power has a negative impact on the national interest of the United States and its allies. During an armed conflict, the information campaign allows using the facts of defeating the enemy or inflicting significant damage, as well as capturing key terrain to create “windows of opportunity”, i.e., to have a certain impact on the moral and psychological condition of the troops, political leadership, as well as the population of the allied countries and enemy states.
Achieving a synergistic effect in multi-sphere actions is possible both at the expense of “division of labour” in solving a common task between the branches of the troops operating in different spheres, and at the expense of uniting their efforts at different stages of its resolution. This requires high quality interaction at all levels, as well as the freedom of manoeuvre achieved by synchronising the actions of heterogeneous forces, whose commanders have the power to make independent decisions in the performance of combat tasks.
The transition to de-escalation of armed conflict provides the U.S. forces with an opportunity to participate in the development of a new security system on favourable terms by countering the enemy’s use of unconventional (special) means of warfare and deterring them from engaging the conventional forces. These measures help to consolidate the success achieved, to renew the policy of deterrence on favourable terms, to pre-empt the return of the enemy to the organisation of subversive activities, to apply measures of destabilisation and intimidate by working out all aspects of the return to military and political confrontation. They also allow the U.S. and partner countries to remain free to act and develop friendly political systems and alliances.
Thus, the U.S. concept documents contain ways to contain and defeat an equal U.S. enemy force, while using the capabilities of different types of armed forces in all operational environments. The documents describe how to create complex situations for the enemy by focusing on different environments in order to open “windows of opportunities” to capture, retain and develop the initiative to defeat the enemy and achieve the goals of the military campaign. The U.S. Department of Defense believes that by applying the provisions of these concepts in practice, the Armed Forces will be able to guarantee the ability to deter the enemy’s aggression, to oppose its activities in peacetime and force it to end the conflict on disadvantageous terms.
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