After nearly 16 years of prosecuting counter-insurgency operations, has the US military lost the formula for conducting high-intensity warfare?
The shift is significant.
High-intensity warfare is characterized by rapidly evolving, high-lethality, multi-domain operations.
The skills, tactics, procedures, and the level of force integration required for successfully conducting such operations will challenge the generation of officers who have come to maturity fighting in counter-insurgencies.
One positive example of preparation for high-intensity warfare is the Air Force’s establishment of the Global Strike Command in 2009. A major purpose of this command is to reinvigorate the Air Force’s ability to plan and conduct nuclear operations. All Air Force nuclear-equipped missile units and bombers were subordinated under the new commends. It was established after a number of issues arose over nuclear weapons security, missile crew training, and an erosion of expertise around nuclear warfare planning and execution.
Conventional high-intensity warfare requires a similar reinvigoration.
Officers and enlisted personnel will require training and exercises that emphasize the skills required for operating in a fast-paced combat environment characterized by rapidly evolving threats and weapons that are employed at hypersonic speed and at the speed of light. The introduction of long-range missiles, directed energy, and laser weapons and the ubiquitous nature of cyber operations impose great challenges on personnel accustomed to counter-insurgency operations.
Proper training will emphasize netted systems that are connected digitally and that can share data across platforms and in multiple domains (e.g., sea, land, air, space, and cyber).
A key feature of high-intensity training should be the concurrent refinement of concepts of operations alongside system performance. Digitally netted simulators are ideal for providing multiple operators a collaborative environment within which to sharpen skills and develop new approaches. Netted simulators are ideal for advanced training environments.
Netted “real” systems and live, virtual, and constructive simulators can help to create the conditions for realistic high-intensity exercises.
For example, exercise training ought to include highly stressful and dynamic threats that force personnel to “think on the fly” and to evolve their tactics under realistic scenarios.
Advanced exercise training should include real-time modifications to electronics software to enable dynamic responses to rapidly evolving threats.
The electronic environment in high-intensity war will include digitally configurable electronics apertures that can perform multiple functions simultaneously.
Personnel will require tough training and exercises to enable them to “wring out” top performance from such systems.
There are examples of this occurring with certain digitally configurable sensors in the current conflict in Syria and Iraq.
Brian Morra is a retired career Aerospace industry executive, who currently serves on several corporate and academic boards.