Armor: January 7, 2000


THE MEDIUM BRIGADES: DESIGNED TO FIGHT, BUT NOT TO FIGHT VERY MUCH: The Army continues to reveal more information on its new Medium Brigades, and this poses more questions than it answers. The organization of the brigade will include:
@ three light mechanized infantry battalions, each with 780 troops. Each battalion has three companies, each company has three rifle platoons and an armored gun platoon.
@ a light armored cavalry battalion.
@ a support battalion.
@ company-sized combat units including engineers, rocket artillery, and anti-tank missiles. There is no cannon artillery, but the Army hopes to one day field a howitzer based on the wheeled chassis yet to be selected.
@ company-sized support units including military intelligence, communications, and headquarters.
@ the brigade could be augmented (for various missions) by regular cannon artillery, tanks, helicopters, psychological operations, and civil affairs units.
The Army goes to considerable lengths to insist that this is not a "niche" organization for "influence missions" but is "designed to fight", going so far as to reject the term "medium brigade" and hint that a poll will be taken of the troops to come up with a name for the new kind of unit. Even so, the Army's own statements raise serious questions about how this organization is supposed to survive on an intense battlefield. Some examples:
@ "Our core scenario is Serbia." [In effect admitting that this IS a "niche" brigade, designed for peacekeeping missions, and unable to go into heavy combat without serious augmentation.]
@ "The brigade is not designed to win a frontal attack against enemy tanks in prepared defensive positions." [This would seem to indicate that the brigade could not conduct a breakthrough as was done on the opening day of Desert Storm, but could only seek to slip through a weak spot blasted in enemy lines by other units or perhaps air support.]
@ "Home station training will focus on smaller operations." In fairness, this statement refers to initial training, to get the brigades ready for the smaller operations ASAP, so they could be used for those, leaving heavier units free to deal with more powerful enemies.
@ "The brigade will be most effective in 'complex' terrain." That is to say, in open rolling terrain the armored cars could be easily picked off by tank cannon or wire-guided missiles. Such terrain is fairly common in the Middle East.
@ "If this brigade gets stopped, or forced into a static situation, it's very vulnerable to artillery." The light armored cars can be penetrated by shrapnel. Real tanks can only be killed by direct hits. As the brigade simply cannot keep moving forever, it must eventually be caught and killed.
@ "The brigade will use its access to intelligence to avoid being locked into a fixed battle with the enemy". This would seem to indicate that a medium brigade would be useful for some battlefield missions, but not for all of them , indicating that either some improvement in the brigade will be needed, or that the Army must maintain many heavier brigades. --Stephen
V Cole


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