Academic journal article Military Review

Obstacles to Maneuver

Academic journal article Military Review

Obstacles to Maneuver

Article excerpt

[Al direct attack on our capability to maneuver significandy affects the battle and that we continue to have difficulty in overcoming maneuver countermeasures Digitization alone cannot solve these problem. The brigade-level warfighting experiment gave no indication that ur were on the threshold of anything more than incremental improvement in overcoming such maneuver countermeasures.

ON 28 MARCH 1997 a mechanized brigade combat team rolled west across the desert of the US Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. The brigade's mission was to attack and destroy an enemy motorized rifle battalion defending key terrain in the southern corridor to set conditions for a future enemy offensive. What made this particular day special was that this unit was the brigade of the future, Task Force XXI. The context for the battle was the Army's Advanced Warfighting Experiment (AWE) for digitization and other future capabilities.

During the previous day and night, the brigade capitalized on its sophisticated intelligence capabilities to discern exactly where the enemy was preparing its array of tactical obstacles. Through digitized terrain analysis, brigade leaders gained appreciation of the terrain's important tactical characteristics. Yet on that morning, the brigade's at-' tack faltered as it approached and then, with difficulty, breached the obstacle. As the obstacles were finally reduced, the enemy remotely delivered scatterable mines to reinforce the breached obstacles in depth and stall the brigade's offensive momentum. The obstacles the brigade had encountered, exactly where anticipated, were in some locations nothing more than wire fence obstacles, in other locations surface-laid antitank mines.1

This episode from the AWE underscores trends seen at our combat training centers for years-that an enemy's direct attack on our capability to maneuver significantly affects the battle and that we continue to have difficulty in overcoming maneuver countemneasures.2 Digitization alone cannot solve these problems. The brigade-level warfighting experiment gave no indication that we were on the threshold of anything more than incremental improvement in overcoming such maneuver countermeasures through Force XXI restructuring.

The Army After Next effort "seeks to provide the Army of 2020 with the physical speed and agility to complement the mental agility inherited from Force XXI." As pioneers of the AAN effort have begun to explore the characteristics and likely requirements of future battle, they have concluded that "mobility, characterized predominantly by speed of maneuver, proved to be the most important factor contributing to battlefield success." AAN is headed toward a substantial effort to generate significant improvements in mobility for the Army's future force. At the same time, however, we recognize that "any serious military threat between now and the 2025 period will very likely involve asymmetric forces designed specifically to threaten US superiority in areas requiring long development and deployment lead times."' Is countermobility an area in Which adversaries will focus and negate potential US maneuver superiority? This article examines envisioned AAN operations and addresses why countermobility will be significant to those operations and why this battlefield function should be addressed integrally with the technological, physical and doctrinal developments that will forge the Army's ability to rapidly maneuver.

How does countermobility fit within our doctrine? Understanding our own doctrine suggests the same concept might be applied against us. In 1985, the Army published a field manual (FM) titled Countermobility. Although not yet rescinded, the FM is outdated and largely ignored, with current and better doctrine articulated in other publications. The draft of the Army's newest FM 100-5, Operations, only uses the term countermobility once, but close reading of current doctrine reveals that the concept is still valid. …

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