Academic journal article Military Review

POINT: Mounted Vertical Maneuver: A Giant Leap Forward in Maneuver and Sustainment

Academic journal article Military Review

POINT: Mounted Vertical Maneuver: A Giant Leap Forward in Maneuver and Sustainment

Article excerpt

FOR ALMOST 70 YEARS, the U.S. military has possessed and employed a capability to conduct strategic, operational, and tactical maneuver by air with light forces through airborne operations. Nearly 50 years ago, the Army expanded that capability by developing the means to conduct air assault operations with dismounted units. Readers of Military Review can easily visualize these kinds of operations and recognize the advantages they provide to joint and ground commanders. However, their limitations are also well known. Once positioned by air, dismounted forces are limited in tactical reach, lethality, and survivability. In most situations, commanders must quickly reinforce air-delivered light forces with other capabilities to fully exploit the positions of advantage achieved and to generate meaningful operational momentum. This effort often requires considerable time and is dependent as well on the availability of strategic airlift and the improved airfields needed for their employment.

In contrast, imagine having the ability to move mounted forces by air directly to positions close to objective areas, then having that mounted force seize critical objectives without extensive pauses or the need for immediate reinforcement. For roughly the past 10 years, the Army has devoted significant efforts to investigating the near-revolutionary effects it might achieve with such intra-theater operational maneuver and tactical vertical maneuver.

Mounted vertical maneuver (MVM) is the Army's concept of a future capability to move mounted, protected forces by air across extended distances, from positions either outside or inside the boundaries of the joint operations area (JOA), to strike directly against critical enemy objectives throughout the depth and breadth of the battlespace. If realized, MVM will provide extraordinarily versatile new options that will extend the reach and power of future joint force commanders (JFCs). It will enable JFCs to respond more effectively to opportunity or uncertainty, to conduct forcible entry, to isolate portions of the battlefield, to exploit success, and to expose the enemy's entire force to direct attack by mobile ground forces at any point. Furthermore, MVM could be one of the key means future JFCs use to accelerate the defeat of the enemy by combining the defeat mechanisms of dislocation and disintegration, as described in both joint and Army futures concepts. The operational benefits that this kind of capability affords are so great that the Army thinks MVM should be pursued as a national program.

Mounted vertical maneuver is a fundamental component of the Army's family of future concepts for the future Modular Force. It provides a means to fully exploit the advanced capabilities of the Army's medium-weight forces, including existing Stryker Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) and BCTs that will be equipped with the Future Combat Systems (FCSs) in the next two decades. The concept is equally applicable to the maneuver and air-based sustainment of any light, motorized, or mediumweight mechanized forces that may be missiontailored into future combined and joint task forces. As this article will demonstrate, MVM is relevant across the full range of military operations, including homeland security. Moreover, it is not merely an Army idea, but has substantial support from other elements in the U.S. defense community.

Historical Background

How new is the idea of MVM? One hesitates to mention the imaginative "mobile infantry drops" of Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers (1959) simply because critics of the MVM concept often dismiss the book's ideas, quite wrongly, as pure science fiction. Brigadier General Richard Simkin's highly admired book Race to the Swift: Thoughts on 21st Century Warfare, published in 1985, is probably the best known early work that addresses the capability.1 In it, one finds a scholarly treatment, well grounded in military theory, of the need for a mounted vertical maneuver capability. …

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