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The Brigade Fight

b00161400

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Recently I've been thinking about how we want our brigade's to fight.  Now, that may seem laughable in some ways due to the fact that we have no recent experience in deploying an actual CMBG and our CMBG's aren't really resourced to fight as a formed formation.  Having said this, the army says that a brigade is a fighting formation and we train them as such during UNIFIED RESOLVE and, depending on the year, at MAPLE RESOLVE.

In the past few weeks I've had a conversation with one of our brigade commanders on his experiences thus far, read Close Engagement, and read an article on US brigades going through JRTC (https://www.benning.army.mil/infantry/magazine/issues/2018/Oct-Dec/pdf/11_Buzzard_BDE.pdf) and compared that against an article written by MGen Julian Thompson on his time as Comd 3 Cdo Bde in the Falklands as well as my own correspondence with him.

What the Bde Comd told me was that you can fight a Bde as a big Bn or a small division.  I thought that was an interesting approach to answering the question of how a Brigade should fight. 

The Canadian Army view is that the Bde is the first level where JIMP actions can take place.  The US article above talks about effective Bde's not getting fixated on the "shiny object" of the close fight.  They should work in conjunction with Div/Corps/JTF to fight the deep battle.  This deep fight sets conditions for success in the close fight and the Bde enables this success through the deep fight, provision of enablers, RAS and reconnaissance to identify the enemy main effort and vulnerabilities.  Lastly the Bde should be managing transitions from tactical activity to the next.  The Canadian philosophy maybe even more demanding in that the HQ needs to be able to integrate all the potential JIMP assets, and people/personalities.  This in my opinion is a description of the "small Div" approach.

Alternately, once 3 Cdo Bde was landed and shed its requirement for dealing directly with the HQ back in the UK it was very much focussed on tactical execution in the close fight.  It had little if any deep fight.  What I think is most telling is the small size of 3 Cdo Bde's HQ, the speed of its decision making and planning, and the activities of its commander.  Comd 3 Cdo Bde would move forward with a recce group, similar to a BG Comd's recce grp, to conduct personal reconnaissance of the ground and enemy before pursuing a decision making process that is fairly similar to our Battle Procedure drill.  I would also look at brigades, both US and UK, in Desert Storm that advanced in formations as a formed whole and executed battle drills.  I would suggest that this is an example of the "big Bn" approach.

I don't think there is any one right way.  It's a matter of what is expected of that brigade and its headquarters to achieve and how large it is, particularly what enablers it has organically or attached.  Theoretically, we could take away the JIMP requirements from the Bdes and place them with 1 Cdn Div.  I think this approach would be more in synch with our allies, however, if we're sceptical about a deploying Bde then deploying 1 Cdn Div seems just as or even less likely.  What I'm thinking right now is that the JIMP enabled Bde that integrates all these enablers and can operate dispersed over a large area of operations is likely the worst case scenario so we should aim to be prepared for that (we've been ordered to anyway).  The risk of this is that Bde HQ's are likely to be too big, slow, and vulnerable to operate against a more capable opponent.
 

a_majoor

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An interesting approach to be sure, but does Canada even have sufficient "enablers" attached to a Brigade to fight as the "Small Division"? If we think a good day at Maple Resolve is when 8 tanks are actually running, and most of the enablers are in similar shape then maybe we need to sit back for a moment.

While a Bde HQ may have the intellectual horsepower to handle the JIMP people and enablers, if they don't actually exist in any useful quantities then maybe we should take the more realistic "Big Battalion" option instead.
 

daftandbarmy

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Haligonian said:
Recently I've been thinking about how we want our brigade's to fight.  Now, that may seem laughable in some ways due to the fact that we have no recent experience in deploying an actual CMBG and our CMBG's aren't really resourced to fight as a formed formation.  Having said this, the army says that a brigade is a fighting formation and we train them as such during UNIFIED RESOLVE and, depending on the year, at MAPLE RESOLVE.

In the past few weeks I've had a conversation with one of our brigade commanders on his experiences thus far, read Close Engagement, and read an article on US brigades going through JRTC (https://www.benning.army.mil/infantry/magazine/issues/2018/Oct-Dec/pdf/11_Buzzard_BDE.pdf) and compared that against an article written by MGen Julian Thompson on his time as Comd 3 Cdo Bde in the Falklands as well as my own correspondence with him.

What the Bde Comd told me was that you can fight a Bde as a big Bn or a small division.  I thought that was an interesting approach to answering the question of how a Brigade should fight. 

The Canadian Army view is that the Bde is the first level where JIMP actions can take place.  The US article above talks about effective Bde's not getting fixated on the "shiny object" of the close fight.  They should work in conjunction with Div/Corps/JTF to fight the deep battle.  This deep fight sets conditions for success in the close fight and the Bde enables this success through the deep fight, provision of enablers, RAS and reconnaissance to identify the enemy main effort and vulnerabilities.  Lastly the Bde should be managing transitions from tactical activity to the next.  The Canadian philosophy maybe even more demanding in that the HQ needs to be able to integrate all the potential JIMP assets, and people/personalities.  This in my opinion is a description of the "small Div" approach.

Alternately, once 3 Cdo Bde was landed and shed its requirement for dealing directly with the HQ back in the UK it was very much focussed on tactical execution in the close fight.  It had little if any deep fight.  What I think is most telling is the small size of 3 Cdo Bde's HQ, the speed of its decision making and planning, and the activities of its commander.  Comd 3 Cdo Bde would move forward with a recce group, similar to a BG Comd's recce grp, to conduct personal reconnaissance of the ground and enemy before pursuing a decision making process that is fairly similar to our Battle Procedure drill.  I would also look at brigades, both US and UK, in Desert Storm that advanced in formations as a formed whole and executed battle drills.  I would suggest that this is an example of the "big Bn" approach.

I don't think there is any one right way.  It's a matter of what is expected of that brigade and its headquarters to achieve and how large it is, particularly what enablers it has organically or attached.  Theoretically, we could take away the JIMP requirements from the Bdes and place them with 1 Cdn Div.  I think this approach would be more in synch with our allies, however, if we're sceptical about a deploying Bde then deploying 1 Cdn Div seems just as or even less likely.  What I'm thinking right now is that the JIMP enabled Bde that integrates all these enablers and can operate dispersed over a large area of operations is likely the worst case scenario so we should aim to be prepared for that (we've been ordered to anyway).  The risk of this is that Bde HQ's are likely to be too big, slow, and vulnerable to operate against a more capable opponent.

With as much artillery as you can muster... and the ammo.

If there's one thing I heard from the guys who were in 3 Cdo Bde during the Falklands War, you need lots of firepower to move those BGps around without getting pinned to the mat by the opposition.
 

b00161400

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I have no doubt you’re right.  I think whether you’re fighting “big battalions” or “little Divs” our Bde’s need more fire power starting with more artillery.
 

daftandbarmy

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Haligonian said:
I have no doubt you’re right.  I think whether you’re fighting “big battalions” or “little Divs” our Bde’s need more fire power starting with more artillery.

I think, as a result of our many years of COIN ops, we have become enamoured with air support at the expense of artillery. But, in a 'real punch up' of course, artillery is still the Biggest Battlefield Bully 24/7 good weather or bad, and we need way more of it to do the business properly.
 

McG

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Viewing this as a choice between “big battalions” or “little divisions” is probably an over simplification. I think a lot of factors dictate what need or need not be in a brigade’s sphere of influence and control.

In a near peer fight, the brigade needs to be able to really focous its attention on its assigned fight. It cannot do that if it is also CIMICing/IAing every encounterd town and village as it advances up the trace (that CIMIC and IA have become usable as verbs is telling of other problems).

But, if we are in a theatre with massive overmatch but conducting operations with relatively few dispersed troops, then the brigade has the time (if given the appropriate staff) to manage more of the problems in its battle space.
 

daftandbarmy

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MCG said:
Viewing this as a choice between “big battalions” or “little divisions” is probably an over simplification. I think a lot of factors dictate what need or need not be in a brigade’s sphere of influence and control.

In a near peer fight, the brigade needs to be able to really focous its attention on its assigned fight. It cannot do that if it is also CIMICing/IAing every encounterd town and village as it advances up the trace (that CIMIC and IA have become usable as verbs is telling of other problems).

But, if we are in a theatre with massive overmatch but conducting operations with relatively few dispersed troops, then the brigade has the time (if given the appropriate staff) to manage more of the problems in its battle space.

How to Fight - the Tank/ Mech Infantry Team

Slightly cheesy, impressive 70s mustaches, but some timeless lessons about the combined arms team:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uc-wTlD-_U

 

b00161400

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MCG said:
Viewing this as a choice between “big battalions” or “little divisions” is probably an over simplification. I think a lot of factors dictate what need or need not be in a brigade’s sphere of influence and control.

In a near peer fight, the brigade needs to be able to really focous its attention on its assigned fight. It cannot do that if it is also CIMICing/IAing every encounterd town and village as it advances up the trace (that CIMIC and IA have become usable as verbs is telling of other problems).

But, if we are in a theatre with massive overmatch but conducting operations with relatively few dispersed troops, then the brigade has the time (if given the appropriate staff) to manage more of the problems in its battle space.

Agreed.  I think "big battalions" and "little divisions" are opposite ends of a spectrum and any particular approach is situated somewhere along that spectrum.  I'd say US Bde's may sit somewhere in the middle, maybe a little on the big battalion side due to the fact that I don't think they are worried about the joint, interagency, and public part so much, whereas our aspirational ideas for our Bde's sound like they are closer to the little div.

daftandbarmy said:
How to Fight - the Tank/ Mech Infantry Team

Slightly cheesy, impressive 70s mustaches, but some timeless lessons about the combined arms team:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uc-wTlD-_U

"Lethality, it means deadliness."

Hahaha.  I love these.  Gen DePuy would have been very please with this LCol as he had obviously read the 1976 version of FM 100-5 Operations.  The British ones, like "Fighting in Woods", are the best but this one was good too.
 

FJAG

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daftandbarmy said:
How to Fight - the Tank/ Mech Infantry Team

Slightly cheesy, impressive 70s mustaches, but some timeless lessons about the combined arms team:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uc-wTlD-_U

Boy those Centurions, M113s, M109s and mustaches sure bring back memories.  ;D

:cheers:
 

b00161400

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An interesting article related to the theme.  I know it's been discussed before but I wonder if a reconnaissance and security focus for CMBGs could be a viable approach.  CMBGs designed to plug into coalition formations to give Corps level HQ's a reconnaissance and security formation.

The British Strike concept could be relevant as well.

https://mwi.usma.edu/winning-deep-fight-return-echeloned-reconnaissance-security/
 

McG

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35 years ago, doctrine defined “CMBG” as “Corps Mechanized Brigade Group” and this was coincidentally the role filled by 4 CMBG.
 

b00161400

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MCG said:
35 years ago, doctrine defined “CMBG” as “Corps Mechanized Brigade Group” and this was coincidentally the role filled by 4 CMBG.

I didn't know that.  I thought that 4 CMBG was reserve for VII Corps or BAOR.
 

McG

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I don’t know how far back into the past we had doctrinally described the “C” as meaning “Corps” for an acronym where it always meant “Canada” in a formation name, so I don’t know that it applies to time with the BAOR. Certainly, it was VII Corps’ mechanized brigade group ... more punch than any brigade inside a division and faster to wield than any division. Corps reserve was a job it could do. It was also suited for guard tasks and flank security.
 

TangoTwoBravo

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According to such sources as I can find, 4 Canadian Mechanized Battle Group became 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group in 1972. I do not think that the C ever stood for Corps. After the move south to Lahr, 4 CMBG was a reserve for CENTAG. In the event of war the intent was to attach it to either II German Corps or VII Corps. It trained with both. Going mostly off "War Without Battles", its likely task would have been to establish a block on some good terrain in depth against a Soviet penetration. The US in particular has its Armored Cavalry Regiments (ACRs) specifically organized and trained to perform the Cover task for a Corps.

The current Canadian doctrine for Brigade ("Brigade Tactics"), does talk about using a CMBG as a cover for a higher coalition formation. I've written up one exercise exploring the idea. It can work, although I believe that our artillery needs to be SP and our infantry need more ATGM if we are serious.

I recommend that anybody in a Brigade or wanting to discuss the Brigade Fight should read the fairly new Canadian "Brigade Tactics" publication. It serves as a useful startpoint.

 

Blackadder1916

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As I remember the fantasy exercise known as "Corps 86", the org chart for the notional Canadian Corps had (in addition to the two mech divs and one armoured div) a Mechanized Brigade Group (identified as 10 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group) as well as an Armoured Cavalry Brigade Group (1 ACBG).  How much the doctrinal employment of the "C"MBG was for cover tasks my memory fails at the moment (I might have some old pubs buried away), but the ACBG (IIRC) was similarly organized to US Armored Cav Regiments (US use of the term regiment) of the day and I posit that they were (in a fantasy notional sort of way) to perform the same tasks.  The inclusion of a separate Mech Bde Gp was (or what I thought was) so that staff training could be done at a formation level approaching reality.
 

TangoTwoBravo

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I think that if things are organized in a close to "doctrinal" way, a Brigade will fight much more similarly to a Division that it would to a Battalion.

I believe that the Brigade is the first level that can truly plan and fight at the same time. The Brigade truly has a deep fight, whereas the Battalion/Battle Group does not really have the assets to have one. The Brigade will have a deeper time horizon/scale than the Battle Group. The Brigade in certainly more interested in the close fight than the Division, but the Battle Group lives the close fight. The various manoeuvre units in a Brigade will rarely be in a position to conduct fire and movement etc due to the size of unit footprint, whereas this might be normal in a Battle Group. Passing a company through a company is not particularly complex. Passing a battle group through a battle group is quite different. Battalion tactics can be scaled up Platoon tactics. That model fall apart, though, at Brigade level.

Now, a Brigade that has a single Battle Group and a single artillery battery might fight in a manner quite similar to a large Battle Group that has an artillery battery and a full Plans shop. I would call those "edge cases", but those are also things that we have certainly seen in the past twenty years!
 

b00161400

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Tango2Bravo said:
I recommend that anybody in a Brigade or wanting to discuss the Brigade Fight should read the fairly new Canadian "Brigade Tactics" publication. It serves as a useful startpoint.

Brigade Tactics isn't bad but we can thank the UK for that.  It is, with a few exceptions, a word for word copy of their equivalent manual, AFM Vol 1 Part 1B.

Tango2Bravo said:
I think that if things are organized in a close to "doctrinal" way, a Brigade will fight much more similarly to a Division that it would to a Battalion.

I believe that the Brigade is the first level that can truly plan and fight at the same time. The Brigade truly has a deep fight, whereas the Battalion/Battle Group does not really have the assets to have one. The Brigade will have a deeper time horizon/scale than the Battle Group. The Brigade in certainly more interested in the close fight than the Division, but the Battle Group lives the close fight. The various manoeuvre units in a Brigade will rarely be in a position to conduct fire and movement etc due to the size of unit footprint, whereas this might be normal in a Battle Group. Passing a company through a company is not particularly complex. Passing a battle group through a battle group is quite different. Battalion tactics can be scaled up Platoon tactics. That model fall apart, though, at Brigade level.

Now, a Brigade that has a single Battle Group and a single artillery battery might fight in a manner quite similar to a large Battle Group that has an artillery battery and a full Plans shop. I would call those "edge cases", but those are also things that we have certainly seen in the past twenty years!

Interesting take.  When I was reading the article and thinking on the "Big Bn" "Small Div" dichotomy one of the things I thought about was the deep fight.  A brigade has a deep fight in the way that they have a deeper planning horizon but other than that they don't have the organic assets to really strike deep.  Presumably to enable the planning for what comes next then the Bde would own or be allocated the appropriate ISTAR assets in order to be able to feed their planning cycle.  MLRS and AH are usually held at the Div and higher.  Doctrinally the deep fight was owned by the Corps.  When I saw that diagram in the article that showed the Bde owning a piece of the deep fight I thought that it could all be elevated by an echelon so that the Div, vice the Bde, had the first slice of the deep fight, and the Corps owned the majority of the deep battle.

A critical distinction between the BG and the Bde is its ability to conduct operations while simultaneously planning for future ones.  I think this maybe the paramount difference but it does not necessarily mean they will fight significantly differently if the Bde lacks the assets to see and fight deep.  I would point to US Bdes in Desert Storm advancing in formations, and appearing to do some level of fire and movement, not totally different than Coys.  I read one account that saw a TF level SBF position.  1 UK Armd Div gave orders to 4 Armd Bde at 1758 and they began their attack at 2330.  5.5 hours isn't much of a "deep" planning horizon.

Perhaps the line in the sand is what level is responsible for success in the close fight.  In Desert Storm I think that level would have been the Division.  Above that level, the Corps was responsible for sequencing, resourcing, and employment of the ACR as well as Corps level fires to set the conditions for a successful commitment of the Divs.  Above that the CJFLCC and beyond were concerned about joint and combined issues.  At the Division level and below their actions may have looked something like "Big Bns." 

Limiting this would be the effects of terrain and battlespace density.  As the frontage and depth of any unit increases it will need to be allocated more enablers to enable it to control its associated area and the reduced ability for direct fire weapons to provide mutual support between units.  The more enablers, the larger the staff, and the more deliberate the planning process.  The more dispersed the fight the more its fight will take on the complexion of that of a higher formation.
 

b00161400

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Tango2Bravo said:
In the event of war the intent was to attach it to either II German Corps or VII Corps. It trained with both. Going mostly off "War Without Battles", its likely task would have been to establish a block on some good terrain in depth against a Soviet penetration.

Just finished reading First Clash and that's exactly what 4 CMBG is doing on behalf of VII Corps.
 

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Tango2Bravo said:
I believe that the Brigade is the first level that can truly plan and fight at the same time.

This sounds about right.  I'd venture that the "planning horizon" for a battalion or battle group in mobile operations is about 2 to 6 hours, while a Brigade's sits at about 8 to 16 hours (a Div is about a day, while a Corps sits at 2-3 days).  The battalion commander is thinking "how am I going to clear this town" - his staff supports this.  The brigade commander thinks "how am I going to clear this town, and what are we going to do after we clear it."  This is fighting and planning at the same time.

The Brigade truly has a deep fight, whereas the Battalion/Battle Group does not really have the assets to have one.

Are you talking about "a" brigade, or "our" CMBG?  What assets does a CMBG have to conduct close and deep operations simultaneously?
 

TangoTwoBravo

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The Brigade at least owns tube artillery. It's deep is not as deep as the Div and Corps Deep, but the framework at least applies. The Brigade might chose to focus exclusively on its close fight - the "shiny object" as the article alludes to. It does, however, have a deep. Deep does not really apply to a Battle Group, even one with mortars.

Training at a US school in 1998 our instructors would comment that the Div of the time was really the one with a Deep Battle as the Div had AH64 and MLRS. Nevertheless, the Bde still used the Deep as part of the framework and could at least do something about it.
 
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