Thursday, 16 June 2016

Logistics! Logistics! Logistics!

In a previous blog, I wrote about the possibility of Canada providing an infantry battlegroup on an enduring NATO deployment.  Since then, the government seems to have shown some interest in doing just that.  In this blog, I'm not going to rehash the order of battle, or ORBAT of that battlegroup.  In fact, the order of battle is nearly irrelevant.  It could have the very best of everything, but if Canada could not sustain it, then it would be moot.

In that previous blog, I made mention of a National Support Element or NSE.  This would have as its main task the sustainment of that battlegroup.  Canadian doctrine is pretty clear on its sustainment, and as such, how or what that NSE would have to do.  As a synopsis, it would carry seven days' of supplies for that battlegroup, acting as its so-called "B" echelon.  It would also care for the longer-term maintenance of the guns, weapons and other equipment, carry forward fuel, ammunition and food for the men and so on.

In times of peace, its job would be relatively easy.  That is, compared to our logistical efforts in Afghanistan during the height of combat operations there, it would be infinitely easier.  Virtually all classes of supply would be able to be procured in country: ammunition is NATO standard, POL standards are the same and so forth.  In fact, if you can think of it, there is a NATO STANAG for it.  (Consider this STANAG for bar codes on shipment labels as an example.) The Canadian-only things we would have to get to our troops would be hard rations, or IMPs as they are called, weapons and equipment parts specific to our national assets (such as LAV 6 barrels and other widgets for our "stuff"). 

If war were to break out in the Baltic between NATO and Russia (or, "NotRussians" as the case may be...), then the logistics would be relatively difficult.   Again, this is relative to our efforts in Afghanistan.  The reason would be that the Russians would effectively cut out our efforts to reinforce and/or sustain our forces in the field by sea and by air.  Consider this map of the region:

Any efforts to bring in supplies via Riga or any other port would be an exercise in futility.  Also, Russian Surface to Air Rocket Forces would be able to project its power over the entire area from Russia as well as from the Russian enclave that used to be the eastern-most edge of the German Empire and Prussia. The S-400 "Triumph" has a reputed range of 400 km.  Even at a fraction of that, our C-17s would be highly vunerable even in German airspace off to the West. 

For this reason alone, strict adherence to our doctrine of a net total of 10 days' of stocks across the A and B echelons would be vital for the survival of our force.  Our forces would be quickly cut off and isolated by a Russian surge from Belarus into Russia via the corridor straddling the Lithuanian-Polish borders.  It would take perhaps 10 days' of build up by our NATO allies to mount a counter offensive capable of reaching our forces, most likely in the area around the capital of Riga.  (Attempts by our Leopard 2A6Ms to relive Otto Carius' efforts at the battle of Malinava in the region of Daugavpils would be an effort in futility.)

So, in conclusion, efforts to sustain a national effort in Latvia is completely within the realm of the possible.   Canada sustained a similar sized task force during 5 years of combat operations in Afghanistan, and a much larger sized brigade group in the Federal Republic of Germany for decades.  The key, however, is that if push does come to shove and it comes to war, the Canadian task force must be prepared to withstand 10 days' of high-intensity combat before being relieved.  As such, its needs to be able to have firepower, mobility and protection all sustained by a robust combat echelon.


  1. I don't think there would be much option to even consider holding any ground. At best it would be a withdrawal in contact. It would give the B Ech a chance to peel out at the high port to pre designated running replenish points and repeat until an MLR is solidified.
    The only viable means of sustainment would be in the form of a 21st century "Red Ball Express".

    1. Yep. But say a mobile defence back to Riga and then hold on for dear life!

    2. Yep. But say a mobile defence back to Riga and then hold on for dear life!

  2. Kind of like a "First Clash" scenario.

  3. I have copied this, verbatim ... fully credited and linked,of course, on my blog:

  4. Thank you for passing along the message!