Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 86

armored, and Stryker. Maneuver BCTs are the Army’s primary fighting elements and land-space owners. Under Army 2020, infantry and armored BCTs will receive an additional maneuver battalion. This increases a brigade commander’s battalions from two to three and correspondingly drives up combat power. (Stryker BCTs already possess three maneuver battalions and will remain unchanged.) However, these forces are not new elements; they are coming from other organizations. The Army is reducing the number of BCTs from forty-five to “an interim solution of thirty-three.”14 The BCT breakdown will be twelve armored, fourteen infantry, and seven Stryker. To complement these changes, the Army is also dispersing and reorganizing engineer and artillery assets with the goal of empowering the BCT commander with the assets directly under the commander’s control. Finally, division structures are also changing. Although there is not one specific formula, the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) provides a model. After the restructuring, 4ID will employ one of each type of BCT—Stryker, infantry, and armored. The implications of these changes are difficult to predict. Staffing fewer BCTs reduces the forces available to rotate through a theater for a sustained campaign. However, this is offset by each BCT’s increased combat power, which translates into a bigger area of operations and/or the ability to counter more enemy forces. In the case of 4ID, the new structure provides excellent flexibility—especially against a hybrid threat. 4ID’s armored BCT provides tremendous firepower and mobility—but takes time to arrive in theater. The division’s infantry BCT provides a quickly deployable force well suited for urban operations—but without armored protection. The Stryker BCT—with its light armored vehicles and numerous dismounted soldiers— brings elements of both. The inherent fire support and engineering assets round out the BCTs’ and division commander’s employment capabilities. How does the Air Force respond to these changes? Looking back to actions taken by generals Bradley and Quesada provides a framework for critical thinking. During World War II, the Air Corps needed to innovate tactical support aviation quickly. One of the ways it was able to do this was by relying on existing technology. Unlike other World War II aviation tasks, such as strategic bombing or fighter escort, CAS did not rely on a specific technology to achieve success.15 The development of a specific airframe for a specific task requires 80 a lengthy timeline or the commitment of significant wartime resources. Two examples of this are the four-engine strategic bomber and the high-performance fighter aircraft designed as escorts. The United States developed the B-17 and P-51 specifically to facilitate the daylight bombing of European Axis powers.16 World War II CAS did not face this limiting requirement. Engineers originally designed the P-47 Thunderbolt as an interceptor. The aircraft never excelled in this role, but soon became one of the Army Air Corps’ best and most prolific close support aircraft.17 In fact, after P-47s from Quesada’s IX Tactical Air Command began providing armed tank column support, an army division commander stated, “Many veteran tankers now refer to the P-47 as the best and only effective antitank weapon.”18 The Germans agreed. They began calling the fighters Achtung Jabos (most terrible weapon).19 The P-47s thrived in their new role. A German soldier attempting to counter the Normandy invasion complained, “Yah, for eleven days I saw seven Luftwaffe and seven thousand Thunderbolts.”20 What techniques and equipment does the Air Force currently possess that will support the new Army structure? In the 2012 Army Training Strategy, the document’s authors close by stating, “Army leaders … must recognize that there are no predetermined solutions to problems.”21 Obviously, this is true for Air Force leaders as well. Can the Air Force change the way it currently employs its systems? Existing training opportunities should be maximized; tactics, techniques, and procedures from Iraq and Afghanistan should be studied; and modifications to current equipment should be considered. For example, when an Army BCT attends training at the National Training Center in California, the Air Force normally supports the exercise by conducting a Green Flag Exercise. In the past, Green Flags employed a single type of aircraft from a single squadron. The current Green Flag goal is to provide at least two airframes, unmanned aircraft, and electronic warfare assets.22 Although this training is excellent, it does not completely maximize what the Air Force can provide. Imagine an exercise where the Air Force participated in each step of the process. Mobility aircraft like C-130s could airdrop an infantry element at the outset of the engagement. Air Force fighters, bombers and November-December 2015  MILITARY REVIEW