Magazine article National Defense

Marine Lab Prepares Troops for All-Out Urban Conflicts

Magazine article National Defense

Marine Lab Prepares Troops for All-Out Urban Conflicts

Article excerpt

Warfare is shifting from open battlefields to an area military forces have long avoided-cities. It is being waged less by military forces and more by non-state warriors and terrorists.

The task ahead is to adapt to this emerging security environment. In the Marine Corps, it's a challenge that is being met in a series of experiments called Urban Warrior

"The world coming at us over the horizon will be different," noted Gen. Charles C. Krulak, USMC, Marine Corps commandant, adding that this new world already is beginning to appear.

"Future war is most likely not the son of Desert Storm, rather it will be the stepchild of Somalia and Chechnya," he mentioned.

Intemal Conflicts

Of the 27 major conflicts that occurred in 1996, only one was an interstate conflict. All others were intrastate conflicts. In fact, almost all were internal conflicts during the last five years. These are not force-on-force contests. They instead are characterized by a low-level communal violence that is the result of a disintegrating social order in much of the developing world.

This conflict is increasingly occurring in heavily populated urban areas in the developing world. In the Cold War's aftermath, U.S. forces have found themselves operating in such built-up areas as Bangladesh, Mogadishu, Port Au Prince, Monrovia, and Freeport.

The greater concern is the specter of things to come. Urbanization is occurring at a dramatic rate throughout the world. According to the World Health Organization, urban populations in developing regions will triple between 1990 and 2025, reaching 4 billion people or 61 percent of the world population.

Much of this urbanization is occurring in the Pacific littorals. By 2000, 13 of the world's 21 megacities-populations of 10 million or more-will be located in the Asia-Pacific region. As the Asian Development Bank notes, many of the countries facing major urbanization are least equipped to cope with the problems.

Technology, Operations Testbed

The challenge is to develop capabilities appropriate for this emerging security environment. The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory was established in 1995 for this purpose. It provides a test-bed for developing enhanced operational concepts that include the integration of new technologies. They will be progressively introduced into the Fleet Marine Forces as new tactics, techniques and procedures. Ultimately, they will take the Marine Corps into the 21st century.

To accomplish this task, the Warfighting Lab developed a five-year experimentation plan. The initial experiments, called Hunter Warrior, were conducted between September 1996 and March 1997.

They examined a critical question: can the Marine Corps significantly extend the influence and effectiveness of a modest forward afloat force? To answer that question, a 2,100man special purpose Marine air ground task force was formed and new tactics and techniques were developed.

Modest Force, Major Retum

These were tested against a reinforced mechanized regiment of 4,500 Marines in an advanced warfighting experiment in southern California last March. The exercise demonstrated that a modest force under certain conditions could dominate large coastal areas and a small number of Marine units could inflict severe losses against heavier forces.

In August, the Warfighting Lab initiated a second set of experiments called Urban Warrior. This test examined whether a significant increase in the ability of a forward afloat force could be achieved so that it can simultaneously execute dispersed operations on an extended battlefield and in the constrained environs of an urban area.

The first phase will be conducted on the East Coast. It is developing new tactics and techniques for the urban area to include countering weapons of mass destruction.

The second phase will be on the West Coast. It will examine the results in an advanced warfighting experiment in early 1999. …

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