17 May 2015


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Rob Waddell

Take all the time you want. IMO the answer is that here is no single answer. pl

William R. Cumming

Thanks P.L.! I participated in ICAF classes about two dozen times.



I lectured at several of these places after I graduated from one. BTW, the selection was more important than the course in my time. What you really got out of it other than a year long release from the rat race was to be rated "fully qualified" for promotion to BG if there were vacancies enough. There never were enough vacancies and so the rat race resumed when you graduated. pl


@Col. Lang:

'People like our comrades here do not wish to be "managed" by people who see them as stepping stones. pl'

Stepping stones? I would have said tomb stones. I believe it must be increasingly difficult to maintain morale in the current climate.

What happens if American troops ever have to face a first rate army again without total domination of the skies?


This is another good list...




Who would that be? pl


It was irresistible.

As if I didn't give enough clues ... Elwood P. Dowd's sister Veta Louise utters the above line, after a really close shave, so to speak, with a psychiatrist.


Another wonderful line from the movie, which also may be apt in the context of Gen. Weidley is this one:

"I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it."

The full movie is on the tube:



A first rate army other than the U.S. Army? WIth some air capability that denies the U.S. domination of the skies?

I would have thought that as an avid reader and accomplished writer of fiction and an admirer of some Science fiction you would understand the potential of "disruptive technology" - Heinleins linear accelerator on the moon, the laser pistol and such.

The nuclear bomb was "disruptive technology" what happens if the Chinese or Russians come up with the next quantum leap? G.I Joe is then on the ground facing Ivan or Wong on a man to man basis. How does that end? Sedan?

Patrick Bahzad


I understand your "what if ?" question in reference to a potential "first rate army" and the absence of air superiority, but I think the question that needs to be asked is a bit different.
There is no first rate army capable of the same power projection capabilities as the US. However, if the potential battlefield is in the adversary's backyard, that changes the equation a bit.
The issue I see for the US armed forces is the "Israeli syndrome", that is 10 years or so of COIN operations with SOCOM style forces, light footprint and light armour against an opponent that is not necessarily first class military. The Israelis got a real hard reality check when they faced Hezbollah in 2006 after years of shooting fish in a barrel in Gaza. That's the one thing.
The other thing I see as an issue, and it's related to the previous one: when you get used to COIN/SOCOM style raids, you don't train as much for the real basics of combined forces operations and you end up losing certain abilities.
Additionally, and each point I mention is a consequence of the previous one, the current US ground forces are very light on armour overall. There aren't many armoured divisions left (MBTs) and the infantry is mostly geared towards mobility, instead of armour. Combined arms capabilities for ground forces are not exactly a high priority training goal at the moment. Potential adversaries have been noticing this trend for a while and it got them thinking.
Finally, war games organised over recent years have shown another potential danger facing US forces. It's not so much a challenge for air superiority, but a contested sky and an opposing force equipped with advanced AA capabilities and a fleet of attack helicopters could seriously damage US ground forces operations, even more so if there is a sea-based assault/landing involved.
However, on a more positive note, adversaries currently capable of such prowess number very few. The more worrying trend right now is the potential "reality check" that would be faced in an assymetric warfare against an organised, battle-hardened and well prepared force that is fighting in its own backyard. you can fill in the blanks as to who might fit such a profile ...just a clue, i'm not talking about IS :-)



You would have thought that I would know better? I would have thought that you would recognize a rhetorical question. IMO the US is in the process of experiencing a fairly slow motion strategic defeat of the hyper-aggressive neocon and Zionist controlled and inspired "forward" strategy followed over the last decade plus. This defeat will IMO result in an era of what amounts to isolationist feeling among the American electorate with regard to that kind of adventurism. This tendency is now evident in the heavy burden being carried by Republican candidates for president over the basic decision to invade and occupy Iraq in 2003. We saw an earlier version of this in the citizen back-pressure a couple of years ago against armed intervention in Syria. You may want to think that the citizenry is powerless and easily manipulable here but Obama learned then that the Congress responded very negatively to his decision to go to war against Syria. That negative attitude prevented US intervention and it was based on public pressure. IMO the world will see a much more inward looking USA in the coming decades. The wars against China and/or Russia that you posit are wars that the US would have to initiate and would have to travel overseas en masse to fight. I do not think anything of the sort would be supported by the American people. You see technological revolution as the basis of a marked disadvantage for the US in a putative war against a competent enemy? I cannot think of many examples of that kind of thing in history. The emergence of tanks in the last year of WW1, the importation of the stirrup to European warfare, are these the kinds of revolutionary developments you are thinking of? I think that kind of revolutionary change is not in the cards. You need to have substantial R&D and industrial base to produce such things and our likely opponents in minor campaigns connected to CT operations are not going to have that. What I do think is likely to happen is that the US will adopt a foreign policy focused on real US interests. This will be a policy that is supported by sea power and that does not indulge itself in large scale ground wars overseas. CT operations will continue everywhere but that is nothing like the kind of blundering into places that you seem to anticipate.. pl


Patrick, re: "There aren't many armoured divisions left (MBTs) and the infantry is mostly geared towards mobility, instead of armour. Combined arms capabilities for ground forces are not exactly a high priority training goal at the moment. Potential adversaries have been noticing this trend for a while and it got them thinking. Finally, war games organised over recent years have shown another potential danger facing US forces. It's not so much a challenge for air superiority, but a contested sky and an opposing force equipped with advanced AA capabilities "

That means a few things:

The lightly armoured systems are attractive because of the their lower cost, good deployability by airlift and on roads, lower maintenance costs - and because of the 'new kind of war' and 'transformation' sweeping through NATO (coordinated by the US from Norfolk).

To remain relevant, and funded, NATO armies willingly followed the US lead, and lightened up in order to meet the demands for the new constabulary operations.

For one, a lightly armour is inherently vulnerable against heavier forces with the proverbial bigger guns. Under fire, mobility, given the accuracy and lethality of modern anti-armor weapons, probably is not a surrogate for protection. I can run faster without a flak jacket, and I can probably hear and see better without a helmet, but if I get hit, well ...

Transformation has brought other structural adjustments, made more attractive through anyway limited budgets - Germany's Panzergrenadier batallions have phased out the old M113 mortar carrier and with them their organic fire support. Thus 'transformed', they now entirely rely on fire support on the Artillery branch (to be provided by the formidable PzH 2000) or through air power. At the same time they have also introduced JOINT fire control teams for artillery and air power.

That approach would simplify supply, since it frees up capacity for more artillery rounds, or reduces the logistics trail. They may or may not get AMOS or NEMO mortars in the future, but for so long ... The re-arangement may make up for the loss in capability, or not, and yet has to stand the test of battle.

I write that to underline that the new systems and force structures that came with NATO transformation are inherently a compromise.

To compensate for the lower level of protection light forces in battle must rely on concealment, mobility and terrain that allows maneuvre and evasion. Lacking organic firepower, they depend on maneuvre or on-call fire power from artillery and air power (heliborne or fixed wing) against enemies that cannot be subdued with the weapons at hand.

That's IMO why the army has asked for 30mm turrets for the Stryker so they would be able to fend off other armoured enemies of comparable weight.

Imagine a Stryker Brigade faced an old BMP-2 (lighter weight [~15t or so vs. 20 to 25t for the Stryker], tracked, 30mm gun) equipped force. With the exception of the M1128 and M1134, the opposing force could attack and destroy the Strykers from ranges beyond 1500m without the Strykers getting into gun range of their .50 cal or 40mm GMG.

In my amateur's estimate that means that such forces are beyond what you named probably also inherently vulnerable to disruptions of their means of navigation, communication and networking (through jamming and hacking) and air- and fire support (trough counter-battery fire and air defence). Given the devastation brought to bear on the West-Ukrainian army, I throw in as major enemy threats to such systems enemy long range sensors and artillery (say, Russian or Chinese made heavy MLRS).

Lighter forces going against heavier, or, worse, dug in enemies are bound to lose hair, and there is not much superior situational awareness can do about something like an incoming salvo of MRLS. There is only so much time to react. And short of limited supply - in the absence of real tanks there is no reason for an enemy not to use an ATGM against a Stryker.

Deficiencies in air power and fire support will only make that more hairy. 'Sky denial' by enemy air defence certainly is a critical factor here.

There is a reason why Russian and Israeli APC now weigh in at about 40 tons. It is a physical reality that the level of force protection needed for high threat environments like urban fighting or fighting in heavily fortified areas can only be achieved in a heavier vehicle.

Patrick Bahzad


You're talking mostly about hardware, which is one aspect of the question. The "ligh footprint" mobility instead of protection focused force, which has been the trademark of Western operations in the last ten years, is indeed relevant. However, this type of force was consistent with the adversary we were facing.
What I'm saying is that regardless of the hardware, if you don't have the necessary skills set (from individual to battallion or brigade level) and if you can't do combined arms which is the "back to basics" we're advocating for, you're bound for a hard landing sooner or later, unless you address your shortcomings before it's too late.
There are remedies to having not enough armour, depending on the terrain too, but there is no quick fix for an army or a ground force that has lost the ability to stage "combat and maneuver" with land, air and possibly sea based units involved.
That's also a reason why I wouldn't read too much into the recent fighting in Ukraine, as the Ukrainian army is a non-existent entity to me. The volunteer batallions and the National Guard are just "cannon fodder"/"stormtroopers". The only read Ukraine can possibly give is on the reinvigorated Russian capabilities and their conventional offensive thinking, which is in straight line with soviet doctrine.



With regard to your response to Walrus and your prediction of future US policy: Insha'Allah.


Col. Lang, I take your point about the likelihood of America facing a foreign war on more equal terms, it's minimal. I also agree that disruptive technologies are few and far between - the stirrup, machine gun, tank, dreadnought etc. I am also sure that the United States has its own fair share of disruptive military technologies under development - rail guns, swarming robots and perhaps space based weapons for example.

I hope you are right about the American people putting a brake on the Nulands of this world.

My caution is based on the principle that, by definition, disruptive technology really is "disruptive". It comes out of nowhere. Nobody expected it and it trashes the current business or strategy models overnight.

Unlike some, I have a great respect for Russia and Chinese basic ( and not so basic) science and engineering both civil and military. Then I look at systems like the F35 and its monstrous logistical tail and I just shake my head, there are so many assumptions about the way we make war embedded in that aircraft and other such systems that it bothers me.

William R. Cumming

Does the Senate Armed Services Committee [current Chair Senator McClain] confirm [hold confirmation hearings] for as COS personnel?

Is my understanding correct that Senator McClain not high on Marine Corps?

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