Written by Colonel V. Kodinov; Originally appeared at Foreign Military Review 2020 #1, translated by AlexD exclusively for SouthFront
The Ground Forces (GF) are a system-forming type of the US Armed Forces (AF), designed both for the defence of the continental part of the country and for the protection of American interests in advanced zones. They are able to independently or in cooperation with the national Air Force and Navy, as well as with allied troops, conduct active combat operations in any type and scale of modern local conflicts and wars in various theaters of war (ToW). At the same time, only the GF can solve the tasks of establishing control over the territory, resources and population of the enemy.
Taking into account the experience gained by the country’s Armed Forces in the course of participating in combat operations in the zones of the Iraqi and Afghan crises, the Pentagon leadership is conducting a set of measures to further increase the combat capabilities of these troops in the interests of timely and effective response to emerging challenges and threats.
In the medium term, the main purpose of the GF will be to ensure the dominance of the country’s Armed Forces on land during military operations, including as part of interspecific groups of troops. They should be prepared to meet the following main challenges:
- conducting large-scale combat operations with a militarily equal enemy in various operational environments (on land, at sea, in the air, in space, and in the cybersphere);
- ensuring the unhindered deployment and use of groups of American GF in remote theaters in the conditions of the enemy’s implementation of measures to prohibit access to American formations in the region and to restrict their freedom of action in the area of the operation;
- fight against terrorism and extremism, ensuring a high level of readiness of troops to conduct “non-traditional” combat operations;
- use of the military presence abroad in the interests of maintaining stability.
In this regard, the main efforts are expected to focus on building up the combat capabilities of the ground forces, as well as modernising weapons and military equipment.
By 2028, in particular, it is planned to increase the capabilities of the ground forces and achieve this by bringing the number of the regular component to 500 thousand people, optimise the organisational and staff structure and combat personnel of the GF, increase the staffing of combat formations, and create formations that meet the requirements of the “multi-sphere operations” concept.
In total, by 2020, the US military is expected to have 58 combat brigades. The largest number of them is concentrated in the regular troops (31 brigades), and formations of combat and logistics support – in the National Guard and Army Reserve. In accordance with the concept of the US Armed Forces “multi-sphere operations”, a new type of formation is being created in the US Ground Forces, which must have integrated capabilities to defeat the enemy in both ground and other areas of combat (air, sea, space and cyber), thereby providing conditions for the successful solution of tasks for other types of armed forces – air and naval forces.
The versatility of such a “combat unit”, despite its relatively small number (from 1,500 to 2,000 military personnel), will allow, according to US military experts, to effectively use firepower in conjunction with information support measures in order to identify and timely use shortcomings (miscalculations) in the building of combat order and enemy actions in all spheres to ensure the maneuvrability of their troops and gain superiority.
Testing the capabilities of a new type of experimental connection is planned over the next two years during operational and combat training activities. In addition, guidelines will be developed for the organisation of its combat use and comprehensive support.
Such formations are supposed to be placed in advanced zones in the immediate vicinity of the territory of a potential enemy. According to the Pentagon, this will increase the effectiveness of solving the problems of ensuring access of groups of the country’s armed forces to the areas of operations.
Six training brigades (military instructors) have been formed in order to liberate combat formations, units and division of the ground forces from the functions of training foreign military formations. Currently, measures are being taken to staff the sixth brigade.
Each of these formations (500-900 officers and sergeants) is focused on a specific region and is intended for operations in the area of responsibility of one of the joint commands of the US Armed Forces. The peculiarity of the organisational structure of training brigades will allow, if necessary, for a short period of time to deploy combat infantry and armoured formations on their base (after completing the enlisted personnel, weapons and military equipment).
For high-quality training of military personnel to conduct combat operations in the wars of the future the ministry of the army is adjusting operational and combat training programmes. The transition is underway from training troops to operate in local, time-limited conflicts to conduct large-scale operations, as well as effective combat in urban environments.
It is planned to increase the capabilities of the GF formations to organise intelligence support, use electronic warfare and counter the enemy in cyberspace.
Considerable attention will be paid to strengthening fire support for infantry and airborne units in the theater of operations.
During the reorganisation of the American army, the weapons and military equipment that are part of it are being modernised, as well as new models are being purchased.
So, by 2021, it is planned to complete the modernisation of the M1A2 SEP Abrams main battle tanks in service to the M1A2C modification and begin testing the M1A2D version, which is scheduled for adoption in 2025.
The main difference between the new modification of this main battle tank will be the use of integrated batch dynamic protection on the frontal armour of the hull and turret. According to the developers, this solution will provide a reliable counteraction to modern and promising armour-piercing projectiles with a muzzle velocity of up to 2,000 m/s and a maximum armour penetration of up to 1,000 mm of homogeneous cold-rolled steel. On-board protection, primarily against anti-tank close quarters combat weapons, is provided with mounted dynamic protection developed for previous modifications of the combat vehicle.
To increase the level of mine protection, it is planned to install a new station for radio-electronic suppression of control channels and neutralisation of radio-controlled explosive devices, which effectively operates in conditions of chaotic re-reflection of radio waves typical of dense urban development. This measure is necessary to solve the problems of tracking and suppressing mobile cellular radio sources of the most common standards.
The new modification of the M1A2 tanks will include 120 mm armour-piercing sub-caliber and multi-purpose rounds. Their special feature is the use of low-sensitive gunpowder in the propellant charge, so that the ballistic ammunition characteristics are preserved in a wide temperature range from -30°C to +60°C.
At the same time, a set of measures is being carried out to modernise the Stryker armoured personnel carriers.
In the course of the planned work, it is planned to replace the large-caliber 12.7 mm machine gun installed on them with a 30 mm automatic gun, place a low-power laser under development, designed to combat small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as well as electronic warfare equipment. In the period up to 2021, 81 vehicles will be upgraded. This equipment is primarily sent to re-equip units of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment (mechanised brigade “Stryker”), stationed in Germany.
Work is also underway on the creation of JLTV light tactical armoured vehicles.
Subsequently, it should completely replace the outdated Humvee multi-purpose vehicles. The new vehicle will receive additional protection from mines, while its weight will be reduced and its cross-country ability and maneuverability will be increased. By 2028, the ground forces plan to purchase more than 20 thousand units of such equipment, and by 2040, about 30 thousand more.
In addition, by 2021, it is expected to complete the programme for creating advanced short-takeoff FVL vehicles (convertiplanes), which should replace the specialised AH-64 “Apache” attack helicopters and UH-60 “Black Hawk” combat support helicopters. It is planned to spend about $310 million on the implementation of the development stage.
In October of this year, tests of the MQ-1C ER Grey Eagle multi-purpose unmanned aerial vehicle with an extended flight duration (up to 48 hours) were completed. In the future, it is planned to mass-produce and deliver the MQ-1C ER Grey Eagle UAV to the US army, including the special operations forces command and the intelligence and security command.
The ground forces are working with American corporations to develop combat lasers to combat air and ground targets. Boeing produces a 10-kilowatt plant (several successful tests took place), Lockheed-Martin – a 50 kW plant, Northrop-Grumman – 100 kW. It is expected that the first serial samples of combat lasers will enter service in 2023.
According to US military experts, the most urgent task at present is to increase the fire capabilities of the US Army.
This is expected to be achieved through the implementation of a multi-stage programme for the modernisation of barrel and rocket artillery. In the near future, it is planned to increase the number of high-precision ammunition of the Excalibur type, increase the interference immunity of their guidance systems and finalise the 155 mm self-propelled M109A6 Paladin howitzers to the M109A7 version and 155 mm towed M777A2 howitzers to the M777ER version (with an increased firing range of up to 70 km).
The next step should be the development of a new HM1113 active-jet projectile increased accuracy with a range of up to 70-100 km and the creation of advanced artillery systems for launching hypersonic projectiles. According to experts, to build up fire capabilities, it is also planned to return short-range air defence and multiple launch rockets systems to the divisions (batteries) of the army divisions.
Within the framework of the “high-precision long-range weapons” programme, it is planned to create a prototype of an operational-tactical missile system with a firing range of up to 500 km by the end of 2019. Its tests have already been announced for the second quarter of 2020. About 200 million dollars were spent on the implementation of this programme in fiscal year 2017, 222.2 million in 2018, and expenses for the period of up to 2022 are estimated at almost 600 million dollars.
In the interest of cost savings, it is proposed to use the chassis of the M142 Himars and M270 Himars MLRS as the base for a promising system.
At the same time, two transport and launch containers will be installed on a wheeled tractor and four on a tracked one. Correction of the missile flight and guidance of the warhead to the target will be carried out using satellite navigation. According to the US Department of Defense, the adoption of the missile system is expected no earlier than 2027. First of all, they can be deployed in Europe as a response to the deployment of Russian Iskander-M complexes in the Kaliningrad region.
As part of the technical re-equipment of the GF, the main focus is expected to be on the deployment of more effective combat control, intelligence and communications systems that best meet the requirements of integration into a single information and intelligence space.
In particular, the plans of the American command provide for achieving significant superiority over the Russian Federation and China in the field of information warfare, including electronic warfare, by 2023.
Thus, at the initial stage, priority attention is planned to be directed to the implementation of the US air defence programme “Countering Enemy UAVs”. In accordance with it, the ground forces intend to develop and test mobile electronic warfare systems that will be able to automatically detect unmanned aerial vehicles, determine their ownership, and intercept or physically destroy them.
In the course of implementing the projects to create methods of protection against radio-electronic impact, the main focus will be on designing systems that can automatically switch to backup and backup communication channels, as well as operate using alternative navigation tools that do not use GPS signals.
In addition, as part of the implementation of this direction, the possibilities of using important information to transmit through civil information and communication networks, including those operating on enemy territory, will be explored.
In order to solve the problems of integrating electronic warfare systems and conducting combat operations in cybernetic space, the main efforts of the army department will be aimed at creating technologies that allow acting according to a single plan in order to reduce the enemy’s ability to assess the operational situation at an early stage of the conflict.
According to American military experts, the future direction of development of the US army will be tied to the development of information technology, the implementation of the concept “multi-sphere operations”, the fleet capacity advanced robotic and unmanned combat systems and the empowerment of their application, as well as progress in the field of confrontation in cyberspace.
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