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Modern Technologies and Headquarters Unit Compositions

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A while back it occurred to me that Red Army HQs are microscopic. This probably contributed to bad performance in low intensity fighting like Afghanistan and Chechnya because multiple subunits would be in contact in separate engagements, usually separated by significant distances: a bunch of different battles going on, rather than one main battle to fight with the full force of the unit. Arguably "Mini-TOC" would also have failed in conventional battle but that was never tested. They certainly did well enough in exercises as not to be changed.

With the proliferation of modern Command, Control and Communications technologies, would it be possible for the minuscule Soviet HQ elements to perform better? If the current Russian Army TO&Es retain such a small HQ as their Soviet forerunners, will the continuing adoption of digital battle-network and improved associated systems make these HQs more functional than they've been in the past?

Can NATO reduce the numbers of overhead and bloat they have in HQ formations by continuing to use these technologies? This puts many powerpoint rangers out of a job, but that's not a bad thing. From what I hear second-hand about service in HQ units, a lot of time is spent making powerpoints and filing forms that have no reason to exist. An institutional change would be needed to alleviate that burden. Personnel freed up in such a manner could be transferred to Service units or used to harden the logistics tail by providing convoy escorts and the like.

It follows that lighter HQs keep up with their subunits better and thus increase operational mobility. Increased tactical mobility is valuable in evading counter-HQ firemissions. With our current organization, do we have the ability to do this? Have HQ units expanded/bloated since our primary warfighting experiences in the past decade have been counterinsurgency?

With increased ISTAR assets being assigned to ever lower command echelons, to the point of sections having access to UAV footage while on the march, has this affected tactics used since Big Brother Is Always Watching? Have we seen instances, particularly in technology-centric Armour units with only a few vehicles to move around, of micromanagement? Would smaller HQs alleviate this tendency and leave more to the platoon and company commanders, which seems to be what everybody acknowledges as the desired state of things.

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I would say yes. :cul:

However....:redface:

The ISTAR is not the holy grail that the command makes it out to be. It has some serious faults. It's need for self preservation. To feed the monster we shall call ISTAR, we need troops and or sensors to feed the monster. So here we have the problem, ISTA is sold to us as "good for reducing staff at the higher HQ's", but it needs intell that has to be gathered by sensors that have to be manned by personnel, who then feed it into the annalists so HQ can make some sense of it.

There is no way ISTAR can be effective in reducing the resources it was sold to the army on, the sales pitch by the defense industry. It worked on our (small brain mammals) leaders as the want to build their empires even bigger.

In a COIN environment (which we find ourselves in currently) the ISTAR is marginal at best given the resources it requires, that given the same manpower resources to the "troops on the fightin edge" would befit the troops.

Local intel is the face to face intel that troops can act on. ISTAR is too big and time consuming to react on a intended target, the troops.

Local ISTAR assets can make a difference, however again they require manpower to operate and to maintain.

We as most western nations are dependent on the tech and the digital commands and their supporting resources to run our HQ's. I saw what a power outage does to a higher HQ if not fixed within hours. We have lost the map and grease pencil mentality, or we just don't teach that anymore but rather the PP class has taken over.

As for the red army with a small HQ, I would think that this would make the decision cycle much smaller, and a befit to the lower echelon troops waiting for direction.

But, hey it's my 2 cents...:biggrin:

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This is an interesting thread as I the majority of my work is to do with providing synthetic ISTAR feed.

What I see happening is that with the prolification of ISTAR/ BASE ISTAR assets they are being assimlated into the COIN enviroment. However recently we have started to train units in High Intensity Warfighting again and it is throwing up big questions on not only how these assets are to be used but also what assets would really be available to manouver warfighting units.

Irish

Edited by IrishHussar

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However recently we have started to train units in High Intensity Warfighting again and it is throwing up big questions on not only how these assets are to be used but also what assets would really be available to manouver warfighting units.

Irish

And I guess one of the biggest questions coming up is "how long can we expect for example UAV to survice in a conventional war with enemys who have ADA assets? a UAV can circulate in the air for hours against talibans with RPGs in Afghanistan, but in a conventional war it would be a priority target for any air defence missile or gun - and the UAV aint armoured...

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Yes this a issue. The more kit, be it ISTAR or a mod to a wpn system creates problems for the troop at the tip of the sharp end. We had a squad UAV (that we lost on the 1st trail) and a 30 ft tower with a day/night sight. But even these had to be manned, and you just don't have with the current force structure the men, and the means to repair.

We did find the tower pretty handy for watching the road around our COP and for me to see how my projects were doing without leaving the COP.

If they had sent a crew to man the tower it would have been perfect, but no troops were sent with the kit, so in the end it was under used.

ISTAR at the troop, and even SQN level is marginal at best without the necessary personnel trained to operate it and supplied to do so. The Sqn/Tp just is to busy in a COIN environment to handle more tasks.

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We did find the tower pretty handy for watching the road around our COP and for me to see how my projects were doing without leaving the COP.

This design?

sunnews1.jpg

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And I guess one of the biggest questions coming up is "how long can we expect for example UAV to survice in a conventional war with enemys who have ADA assets? a UAV can circulate in the air for hours against talibans with RPGs in Afghanistan, but in a conventional war it would be a priority target for any air defence missile or gun - and the UAV aint armoured...

My guess: About 10s if its being flown in the wrong manner.

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12Alfa: Is it safe to say that the implementation of ISTAR assets has made them less useful to units than they could otherwise be? Would centralization of ISTAR assets under an enlarged reconnaissance subunit, reporting to the recce unit's HQ element (which would contain the analysts of the intelligence cell, reporting up to the HQ's intel cell) speed the delivery of the information to the combat units?

As I view it, this reduces the decision cycle within the ISTAR cell, which produces a finished piece of intelligence faster. This then just has to be distributed to the HQ to which it reports, which can then spread the information to all of its subunits through normal channels. Manpower drain is reduced somewhat by concentrating the ISTAR assets in a dedicated unit. Reconnaissance units may lose some of their traditional scout capability (for further reading, reference McGrath's Scouts Out) but, typically, nobody can agree on what recce's meant to do anyways so we might as well have them manning sensors as in any case, their units are too small to provide the kind of presence on the ground we want in the contemporary COIN environment.

With regards to your second post here, I'm safe in thinking that if you had a detachment from the ISTAR Subunit to man a small OP/LP group the squadron/troop would have been able to make better use of the Eye of Sauron Optronics Mast (Ssnake, tm), and that this would be true of any additional sensor?

Irish Hussar: This has always been one of my pet topics. Yes, all of these ISTAR assets letting me track Mohammed al-Mohammed bin-Mohammed from his doorstep to the local chips shop and back again are great, but assume that we have total air superiority. Given the state of our air forces and the state of current high-technology air defence assets, none of which we possess save for the aging Patriot system, plus assuming an enemy with even half a brain and some artillery, we're going to see all of these expensive widgets reduced to scrap pretty quickly. At this point, the theoretical ISTAR Coy/Battalion configuration I spoke of to 12Alfa above is going to need to revert to more traditional means of reconnaissance. Do we have the flexibility to do this? Which ISTAR assets do you see as being more survivable than others?

Hedgehog: What is the right manner in which to fly a UAV? Even the low-observability designs are vulnerable to detection by antiquated metric-wavelength (meter-long wavelength) radars. For instance, during the Bosnian deployment in the late 1990s we lost an F-117 to a S-125 battery making a shot directed by an comparatively ancient P-18 or P-15, I don't remember which exactly. Digitized and modern metric wavelength acquisition and surveillance radars exist; most dangerous is the Nebo SVU and Vostok-E series. These will prioritize proper aircraft first, but certainly have the ability to detect any UAV we put up within their field of view. Once detected, S-300 and S-400 SAMs certainly have the range and ability to kill them. UAVs are only useful if they can see further than a guy on the ground, so flying them nap-of-the-earth seems to defeat their purpose.

All: I'm not sensing a lot of love for existing ISTAR setups. Have they improved the unit's ability or would it be better to have those personnel manning the sensors and associated infrastructure otherwise employed?

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12Alfa: All: I'm not sensing a lot of love for existing ISTAR setups. Have they improved the unit's ability or would it be better to have those personnel manning the sensors and associated infrastructure otherwise employed?

It has nothing to do with liking/disliking the ISTAR assets. They are realy great and reduce the danger to troops on the ground in an asymetric scenario.

As soon as we get more symetric you get ENY => radar, AD/AA, Arty, eletronic warfare...all of those will have the point "gaining information superiority" on their list.(and on a pretty high spot that is!)

In short: I do not expect the drones and network systems to last very long!

As for staff set up:

We f.e. more than halved our forces (from neraly 500 000 to 185 000). Yet the number of generals and staff officers kept growing. You have to put them some where (=elefant cementary). Now we have staff-divisions on brigade level with 50(!!!) soldiers in it and only the minority of 'em are NCO and below(i.e. working).

NUTS!!

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Hedgehog: What is the right manner in which to fly a UAV? Even the low-observability designs are vulnerable to detection by antiquated metric-wavelength (meter-long wavelength) radars. For instance, during the Bosnian deployment in the late 1990s we lost an F-117 to a S-125 battery making a shot directed by an comparatively ancient P-18 or P-15, I don't remember which exactly. Digitized and modern metric wavelength acquisition and surveillance radars exist; most dangerous is the Nebo SVU and Vostok-E series. These will prioritize proper aircraft first, but certainly have the ability to detect any UAV we put up within their field of view. Once detected, S-300 and S-400 SAMs certainly have the range and ability to kill them. UAVs are only useful if they can see further than a guy on the ground, so flying them nap-of-the-earth seems to defeat their purpose.

All: I'm not sensing a lot of love for existing ISTAR setups. Have they improved the unit's ability or would it be better to have those personnel manning the sensors and associated infrastructure otherwise employed?

A valid point on the ADA, However a UAV flown with NOE, will be able to cover ground much more quickly than a foot trooping scout. and therefore make up for the lack of coverage, and a UAV flying a treetop height is higher than a foot trooper, and with a digital live feed that can be recorded, the UAV can do a quick flypast recon (Risky), and that data can then be analysed at leisure.

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Grenny: It's not solely the asset itself I was referring to, but the way it's currently being employed. What you're saying, to me, sounds a lot like "There's too many bodies at the HQ doing nothing. Put the elephant graveyard over there, replace that brigadier's desk with a corporal manning another UAV feed." The root causes of this we could speculate on but fundamentally, the current issue is not enough warm bodies to sort through all the new information in the current situation (Afghanistan) and, if we start fighting someone whose 'tribe' happens to have decent ADA, the drones and so on aren't going to last long regardless. Am I correct in my understanding of what you're saying?

Hedgehog: I'd discounted the 'fly-by and record' method because if you happen to stumble across one of their point defence systems, you lose the UAV and get a nice recording of a missile being shoved up its ass. Not unlike some Georgian UAV footage showing a Sukhoi shooting it down with a AAM. But that's true of absolutely any asset including - and especially - helicopters, since that's what many of those [point defence ADA like Tunguska] are designed to kill. If nothing else the 'flaming datum' school of recce, where "it died, so clearly something's there" is valuable enough when it's an unmanned asset that was destroyed and not one of the too-few AH-64s, for example.

So in answer to one of my earlier questions, it seems that the microscopic Soviet/Russian HQs can't dramatically increase their efficiency with new ISTAR assets because their staffs are small enough to be overburdened with having to also monitor those feeds and task the UAVs to new things. Would digital command technologies such as those that are well publicized in the Stryker units and the Abrams tanks (since those are clearly public knowledge after several Discovery Channel specials about them) which allow unit commanders to mark waypoints for subordinates on a digital map, issue orders via text (datalink) instead of voice telephony, and automatically update every few minutes with the new positions of BLUFOR and OPFOR units marked on that map improve the performance of smaller HQs? If you've any experience with said systems, does it provide a marked improvement over the traditional 'map board, grease pencil and radio handset' method?

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My concern with battlefield management systems is two-fold. One, it's an invitation to micromanagement from even continents away, and requires an organizational culture of delegating power even in a relentless 24/7 public news cycle which works further destabilizing because of the system-immanent incentive for hype and hysteria in all news reporting (if you don't make headlines, you don't make money, and the safest method to make headlines is with doom & gloom and undermining the credibility of those who say that things aren't quite so bad (Tet-offensive, anyone?)).

Second, BM systems seem to have a penchant for overly complex user interfaces; in the conception phase, every branch of the army is asked for input, often leading to a CYA policy of listing everything that could possibly ever be needed instead of radically reducing the feature set to something like an iPad app. These overly complex user interfaces drain a lot of attention from the vehicle commander, at the expense of local situational awareness (admittedly, they may give him a better context of the battle around him).

While you can probably train the troops to not report a threatening contact until after the target was killed or evaded your observation, often spot reports also require the coordination of your platoon's further actions, where a voice call is just more efficient. IMO the company level staff should be expanded to consolidate the intelligence picture in the BMS according to incoming voice reports, and that be pushed up- and downwards the command chain.

The most useful parts of BM Systems seem to be the automatic BlueFor tracking (provided that really all of your own units actually are equipped with data radio capability and at least satellite navigation receivers) and the better access to maps and a graphical OpPlan down to the individual crew, also it might allow battalion staff to push down changes to the OpPlan during the mission, and hence slightly improve the speed with which small formations can react to a change of the situation.

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