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The Brigade Fight

Kirkhill

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Gulf War 1

1st Armored Division, UK (Maj. Gen. Rupert Smith, United Kingdom)
The United Kingdom initially deployed the 7th Armoured Brigade ("Desert Rats"). After Gen. Schwarzkopf called for another corps, that deployment was incresed to include a full division, designated 1st Armoured Division, though built out of pieces from various UK divisions deployed in Germany at the time. The overall commander of all UK forces in the theater was Lt. Gen. Sir Peter de la Billiere.

4th Armoured Brigade (Brig. Christopher Hammerback, USA)
14/20 King's Hussars (43 Challenger MBTs)
1st Royal Scots Infantry (45 Warrior IFVs)
3rd Royal Fusiliers Infantry (45 Warrior IFVs)
23rd Regiment, Royal Engineers
46th Air Defence battery (Javelin)
2nd Field Artillery Regiment (24 M109 SP howitzers)

7th Armoured Brigade (Brig. Patrick Cordingly, United Kingdom) ["Desert Rats"]
Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (57 Challenger MBTs)
Queen's Royal Irish Hussars (57 Challenger MBTs)
1st Staffordshire Infantry (45 Warrior IFVs) (Lt. Col. Charles Rogers)
2 Warrior & 2 Challenger companies; A co. CO Maj. Simon Knapper
39th Regiment, Royal Engineers
664th Helicopter Squadron (9 Lynx)
10th Air Defence Battery (Javelin)
40th Field Artillery Regiment (24 M109 SP howitzers)

Division Troops
16/5 Queen's Royal Lancers Recon Battalion (24 Scorpion, 12 Scimitar, 12 Striker)
4th Army Air Regiment (24 Lynx with TOW & 12 Gazelle)
32nd Heavy Artillery Regiment (16 M109, 12 M110 SP howitzers)
29th Heavy Artillery Regiment (12 MLRS)
12th Air Defence Regiment (24 tracked Rapier)
32nd Regiment, Royal Engineers

EPW handling infantry battalions
1st Coldstream Guards
Royal Highland Fusiliers
King's Own Scottish Borderers

While I am no fan of our current structure I wouldn't underestimate the utility of light infantry, even in a mechanized force.  Especially if it is difficult to figure out where the front and the rear are.
 

b00161400

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Chris Pook said:
While I am no fan of our current structure I wouldn't underestimate the utility of light infantry, even in a mechanized force.  Especially if it is difficult to figure out where the front and the rear are.

I'm not underestimating them.  Just pointing out the challenges of their employment in a mechanized formation.  In the example you give it's probably worth debating is an entire Brigade's worth infantry units really required just for EPW handling???  And is that best held at the division level or somewhere above so the Div Comd and Staff can focus on fighting the enemy.
 

b00161400

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Looking at that structure it would be interesting to see some research on 1 UK Armd Divs performance versus it's fellow US divisions which had three brigades and is some cases four maneuver units in those Bdes.
 

Infanteer

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I've attached back to my earlier discussion for good measure.

Infanteer said:
In the Commonwealth tradition, the move away from the square was driven by casualties on the western front - triangular brigades were adopted to keep divisions up to strength by merging the fourth bn into the ailing three.  Of note, neither Canada nor Australia ever adopted this format in the First World War.

Binary formations were utilized in the Second World War, some to great success - US Army Armd Divs with CCA and CCB (yes, there was a CCR, but it was generally empty) and German Panzer formations which generally formed kampfgruppen around the Panzer and Panzergrenadier Regimental HQs - and some to great failure (the Italian Divisions).

The real crux of this is how much can a commander control in battle?  Jim Storr discussed a UK DERA study looking at Divisional activity in WWII, showing that at no time did any of the measured Divisions have all nine battalions employed at the same time.  Of the 81 days the measured divisions spent in combat, 43 featured only 3 battalions employed.  Thus over half the time divisions employed only 1/3 of their strength to defeat the enemy.  Looking further at this data, divisions only employed a majority of their forces 1/3 of the time.  He also looks at some work Dupuy did, looking at 200 engagements from the Second World War and concluding that the practical span of command for commanders is actually quite low - 1.7 subordinates committed on average to combat.  This suggests that, historically, Division commanders have put forth at most 8 companies during a majority of their actions.  Additional data from Suez and the Gulf 1 and 2 further support this view.

The "so what" out of this is that bigger formations are unwieldy, despite the notions of "combat power" we like to ascribe to them. Combat power is nice, but only if the organization is one that can be properly utilized by a human commander.  The Brigade is a system optimized to put 2-4 maneuver sub-units in the first echelon.

Going up a level to the unit, the Armoured Regiment of a CMBG should act as that third maneuver unit for the Bde.  We unfortunately see Armoured Regiments as force generators, probably as we have not had to conduct mobile warfare for about 70 years.  If we were to square battalions and armoured regiments, a CMBG of 1 Armd and 2 Inf units would give the Bde Comd the ability to create up to four square combat teams at any one time, with two COs to run that fight and a third in his hip pocket.  This fits very well with the research quoted above.

The core functions we should always look back to are Find-Fix-Strike-Exploit.  However, the elements executing these funtions do not have to be the same size - a Brigade does not need 1 Unit finding, 1 fixing, 1 striking and 1 to exploit.  Reserves/Counter-attack elements are generally better if they are smaller as they are more nimble and can react faster to a situation on the battlefield (i.e. it is easier to get a company moving down the road than it is a battalion).
 

daftandbarmy

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Chris Pook said:
What a siwwy wabbit you are!

I'd go one farther and group all the tanks, guns and heavy engineers at Gagetown.  We only have enough kit for one regiment of each.

And, concurrently, scatter all the TAPVs in a haphazard fashion across the country to appease the militia, right?  ;D
 

Infanteer

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Now, contrary to my earlier musings, I don't believe it is necessary (or even prudent) to aim to build square combat teams all the time.

I could see an ideal CMBG (or CABG?) with the following manoeuvre elements:

2x Mech Inf Bns (3x Rif Coys, 1x Cbt Sp Coy)
1x Tank Regt (4x Saber Sqns, 1x Cbt Sp Sqn)

Bde manoeuvre is provided by 6x Mech Inf and 4x Tank sub-units, serving under 3x unit HQs.  In the offence or defence, the math the Army is looking at as a max right now is 12km of frontage.  I need to dig into frontages based off recent historical studies a bit more, but my gut tells me that nothing has significantly changed the range of a dismounted infanteer for the last half-century - the platoon can still probably control a good 600 to 800 meters of ground.  Sure, weapons ranges are a lot longer - but that doesn't guaranteed you anything, especially with the effects of microterrain in masking an enemy's movement. 

I'd argue that you probably would want to avoid a 12km frontage if you could, with 6km for a Bde Gp as a "start point" likely being a lot more workable.  With a 6km frontage, two BGs could cover 3 km each, with BG task organization being completely dependent on the task - I attached a PPT with a few different combinations.
 

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b00161400

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Infanteer said:
Now, contrary to my earlier musings, I don't believe it is necessary (or even prudent) to aim to build square combat teams all the time.

I could see an ideal CMBG (or CABG?) with the following manoeuvre elements:

2x Mech Inf Bns (3x Rif Coys, 1x Cbt Sp Coy)
1x Tank Regt (4x Saber Sqns, 1x Cbt Sp Sqn)

Bde manoeuvre is provided by 6x Mech Inf and 4x Tank sub-units, serving under 3x unit HQs.  In the offence or defence, the math the Army is looking at as a max right now is 12km of frontage.  I need to dig into frontages based off recent historical studies a bit more, but my gut tells me that nothing has significantly changed the range of a dismounted infanteer for the last half-century - the platoon can still probably control a good 600 to 800 meters of ground.  Sure, weapons ranges are a lot longer - but that doesn't guaranteed you anything, especially with the effects of microterrain in masking an enemy's movement. 

I'd argue that you probably would want to avoid a 12km frontage if you could, with 6km for a Bde Gp as a "start point" likely being a lot more workable.  With a 6km frontage, two BGs could cover 3 km each, with BG task organization being completely dependent on the task - I attached a PPT with a few different combinations.

I was thinking of that thread when I wrote this.  I was going to bring up the square cbt Tms!

I think tying frontages to weapons range and an infantry platoon’s ability to control ground is sound however those frontages don’t correlate with our FE concept,  ADO/ Close Engagement.  Nor do I think any modern Bde comd would be lucky enough to find himself in a situation where he need only worry about covering a 6-12 km frontage, at least on the defence.  Most scenarios will likely feature force to space ratios much lower than this.  I think defending on a broad front against a competent well equipped enemy is one of the major professional challenges of our generation that we need to figure out and tied to the purpose of this thread.

One of things I think that needs to be looked at is just how capable the LAV equipped rifle coy / Bn is at holding ground.  Going to Latvia I knew man power to man BPs, conduct security tasks and patrols, and man the LAVs with a crew and GIB would be a challenge but what also struck me was what this would mean for my frontage.  My platoons were reduced to essentially crew served weapons trenches and a HQ with no depth.  4 men of the 9 man sects were with the LAVs.  The dismounted BPs became more like a sense asset for the LAVs that would be queued to depart hides and occupy BPs based on a trigger. Mutual support with the neighboring coy was little based on the frontage and terrain. It wouldn’t have been that hard to infiltrate around us or to get sufficient IDF on to us to neutralize my posn for a penetration.
 

FJAG

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Infanteer said:
Now, contrary to my earlier musings, I don't believe it is necessary (or even prudent) to aim to build square combat teams all the time.

I could see an ideal CMBG (or CABG?) with the following manoeuvre elements:

2x Mech Inf Bns (3x Rif Coys, 1x Cbt Sp Coy)
1x Tank Regt (4x Saber Sqns, 1x Cbt Sp Sqn)

Bde manoeuvre is provided by 6x Mech Inf and 4x Tank sub-units, serving under 3x unit HQs.  In the offence or defence, the math the Army is looking at as a max right now is 12km of frontage.  I need to dig into frontages based off recent historical studies a bit more, but my gut tells me that nothing has significantly changed the range of a dismounted infanteer for the last half-century - the platoon can still probably control a good 600 to 800 meters of ground.  Sure, weapons ranges are a lot longer - but that doesn't guaranteed you anything, especially with the effects of microterrain in masking an enemy's movement. 

I'd argue that you probably would want to avoid a 12km frontage if you could, with 6km for a Bde Gp as a "start point" likely being a lot more workable.  With a 6km frontage, two BGs could cover 3 km each, with BG task organization being completely dependent on the task - I attached a PPT with a few different combinations.

I find your proposed structure vaguely familiar in that it replicates (vis a vis) numbers of combat arms sub units in the new triangular structure of the Armored Brigade Combat Team. While the ABCT's structure previously called for three combined arms battalions of two tank and two mech Infantry companies each plus a three-troop (company), cavalry squadron (battalion). The new structure (as of 2017/2018) has two armored heavy battalions (two tank companies, 1 Inf company), one Infantry heavy battalion (2 inf companies, 1 tank company) and an upgunned cavalry squadron which now has a tank troop (company) added to it's three reconnaissance troops (companies). (This is a net loss of two infantry companies across the entire ABCT.

My understanding is that these changes were not so much a result of any great tactical epiphany but more the result of declining numbers of soldiers within the army as a whole and a desire to not reduce the total number of ABCTs.

Stryker BCTs remained triangular with three rifle battalions with three rifle companies each (albeit each company has three rifle platoons and one Mobile Gun System platoon)

:cheers:
 

Edward Campbell

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I'm coming late to this discussion and I only want to make a couple of points:

First, prior to 1970, when we were part of BAOR/1(BR)Corps we, 4CMBG, were, very definitely, in the "small division" (one Corps Commander used to refer to 4CMBG as his 4th (Breast-pocket) Division) and there was more than one plan to reinforce us with, inter alia, the Belgian brigade which was based near us, in Soest because no one believed that 1(BE) Corps could ever be mobilized and most people believed that a Belgian division could not be sent forward in anything like a reasonable time. There was also a plan to merge 4CMBG with whatever survived the Phase 1 ~ the covering force battle ~ and thereby reconstitute a Corps reserve ... of course, a lot of our "combat power" resided in one small unit: 1SSM Bty, RCA, which had the nuclear topped Honest John missile system. They were "ours," despite logically being a Corps Artillery asset, because of their relatively short (25 mile) range and, I think, Old Sweat will know better, the unique nuclear custodial and release agreement we had with the USA.

Second, assets like EW should, always, be controlled at the Corps or even higher level but deployed into brigade areas to provide some very direct support to brigade group commanders. There was a plan, circa 1980, to provide 4CMBG, in Lahr, with an EW Troop ~ 50+ soldiers ~ if, Huge IF, we could get the right vehicles ~ eventually the Bisons were "acquired" (and they were the right vehicles) by stealing them from the Reserve Army's allotments ~ and IF we could get airlift in time. I know as a fact that when Gen de Chastelain was Comd 4CMBG (Lahr) he put EW so high on his reinforcement priority list that it caused some real angst in Ottawa and St Hubert. But EW is a bit like artillery. The Corps should decide on how to deploy and, especially in the case of jamming, how and when to use it, but EW Liaison Officers (EWLO) should be deployed as far forward as possible, to Battle Groups if one has enough, to provide near real-time intelligence. In my opinion, the EWLO, who might, very often, be a RCCS or CIntC NCM, is one of the best tools a tactical commander can have and he should always want more of 'em.

My  :2c:
 

Ostrozac

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The US Army started pushing Army Security Agency platoons down to brigade level early in the Vietnam War. I think it’s a foregone conclusion that a brigade in battle needs electronic warfare, whether organic or attached.

A more complex question would be intelligence derived from prisoner interrogation — in Afghanistan we maintained separate national custody chains for prisoners depending on the nationality of the unit of capture, that is unlikely to be possible in a conventional war; as I recall in both Gulf War I and Korea there was a single prisoner chain of custody for the entire coalition. But I recall much drama in recent years about transferring prisoners to US and Afghan custody. Are our JAGs cool with Coalition POW Camps and are we set up to access the intelligence we need from the prisoners in those camps?
 

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We've discussed structure, and deep operations.  To this I'd like to add reconnaissance and security (R&S).

The US is looking at potentially re-establishing R&S formations to enable Divs and Corps maneuver. This sees Divisions and Corps shaping deep operations and enabling the close fight for Bdes and Bns.  The US assumption is that they must/should fight for information over conducting "sneaky peeky" recce. They see a gap in their ability to echelon R&S above Bde.  This is being driven by a desire to re-establish their ability to fight major combat operations against a competent adversary.  In the article at the link below a couple of options are examined:

1.  Maintain the current initiative that sees select BCTs gain a R&S role.  This sees the use of standard, infantry, stryker, and armoured BCTs gain an R&S role and a BPT task to support a Div or Corps HQ.  There is some questions as to whether a standard BCT can be sufficiently competent in this role while maintaining their standard skills.

2.  Re role the current BCT reconnaissance squadrons into a combination of the old Armored Cavalry Regiments (ACRs), Divcavs, and reconnaissance troops (vice squadrons) for the Bdes.

3. Re role select BCTs into modular Cavalry formations.  This sees the option of detaching units to Divs or giving an entire formation to a Corps.  It, however, costs the army a number of line BCTs.

4. Reorganize select BCTs into recce-strike TFs.  This is more aspirational and would see these formations designed to fight and win in a multi domain, blah blah blah.... Essentially similar to 2 or 3 with some spicy technology thrown in.

Article here: https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/English-Edition-Archives/November-December-2019/Jennings-Reconnaissance-Security/

The American assumption is that they need to fight for information over doing stealthy reconnaissance. Further, they seem hesitant to use a line unit to conduct this task as they believe it is either too specialized or it's too many skills for the formation to master.  I'm sympathetic to such a perspective but I prefer Jim Storr's research.  Fighting for information, while maybe enabling tempo initially, will cost surprise, and surprise is the battle and campaign winner.

For those interested on that you can check out this oldy but a goody of a thread with the accompanying article. https://army.ca/forums/threads/35526.0.html

There is a difference between the offence and defence on this.  On the offence we want stealthy recce that can enable surprise.  On the defence when we may want a guard that can fight then we need R&S forces that are heavier.  The solution here would seem to be to assign line sub units to the task to support the Bde R&S forces.  There will be a temptation to assign a tank sqn to this but if you only have one that probably isn't the place for it and so it would have to fall to mech coys.  The advantage of this is that the deception value of mech infantry will be high as the enemy will be expecting to see LAV's and dug in infantry in the MBA. 

There is a substantial battle to be fought in the covering force area that requires some thought.  How do you prevent yourself from being deceived by the enemy's covering force? How do we deceive the enemy if we're on the defence?  What are the indicators that you've fought your way through to the enemy's MDA?  What kind of combat support do you offer to your R&S forces understanding that they could be lost by enemy action?  Counter battery as an example.

It's interesting to see the US looking at assigning standard BCTs to the R&S task. This seems like a likely employment opportunity for a Canadian Bde in any contingency that sees real fighting against a competent opponent.  A Canadian mech Bde could be tasked to support a US or Brit formation along its flanks or perhaps in front of it although that seems less likely.  It seems like this is an area that we ought to be thinking more about.
 
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