Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Opportunity in the East

Check out this article:
Opportunity in the East

Synopsis: NATO is looking for a fourth.  A fourth battalion, that is.  The US, the UK and Germany have each agreed to deploy a battalion of infantry to Eastern Europe in the face of a resurgent Russia. Specifically, these battalions would be earmarked for Poland and the Baltic States.
None of these four countries are very friendly with Russia.  Historically, they have been foes.  Whether or not Russia really will march West is irrelevant.  In the face of Russian sabre rattling over the Baltic and in the Black Sea, NATO must stand united, lest it fade to irrelevance.
This is where Canada could come in.  If I had the ear of the MND or the PM, I would whisper this into his ear:
"We have an opportunity to take a leadership role in NATO and in the Five Eyes (the unofficial alliance of the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  Also called the Anglosphere, Quebec notwithstanding). It is low risk and very high pay off.  Here's what we do..."  This is where I get into policy and details and such.
But in short, Canada could, no, ought to be that fourth battalion.  This is how it could look, going from the top down.

Command and Control
At the top there were have to be a National Command Element.  This would be the commanding general (ideally a Major General) and his or her staff.  He or she would report back to the Canadian Joint Operations Command in Ottawa.  His or her staff would be lean, but big enough to deal with our coalition partners and provide the national rear link.  It would by necessity have to have a signal squadron in order to provide that bandwidth.  It would not be in the same location as the battalion. Instead, it would be at a national capital, be it Warsaw or elsewhere.  The secondary role of liaison with our partners would necessitate this.
Another necessity would be a National Support Element.  This would be the logistical link back to Canada.  In army doctrinal terms, this would be the "BSA".  This "Brigade Services Area" would stockpile the necessary logistical "stuff" (ammo, fuel, water, food, etc) for up to 14 days of sustained operations.  It would also handle the challenging task of deploying the battalion into theatre and of course its replacements.
The Battlegroup
The battalion, in reality, a battlegroup, would be a full-up infantry battlegroup.  In addition to its battlegroup headquarters, it would have the following:

  • Four Rifle Companies
  • One Combat Support Company complete with:
    • Anti Armour Platoon
    • Mortar Platoon
    • Reconnaissance Platoon
    • Pioneer Platoon
  • One Administration Company 
  • One Tank Squadron (complete with full echelon)
  • One Armoured Reconnaissance Squadron
  • One Direct Support Battery (8 x 155mm howitzers)
  • One Anti Aircraft Battery
  • One Armoured Engineer Squadron
This is a huge beast.  This would be close to 2,000 all ranks and would require a Division to assemble this kind of force.  It wouldn't be easy, but with the regular force Brigade Group leading, and with ample support from the reserve brigades, this could be done and sustained, just as we did for our combat mission in Kandahar.

The Cycle
Ok, so we have them there, now what?  Well, I would offer that they would go to Eastern Europe for a 12 month long tour, with each Division being the lead for a tour.  For example, 4 Div would lead the first, followed by 2 Div, etc.  (The anomaly would be 5 Div, but that's only because it doesn't have a regular force brigade group.)  Prior to each tour, the battlegroup would be trained up to what is termed "Level 6", which is Battlegroup.  So, the unit complete has completed its work up training at CMTC in Wainwright, Alberta, and is now sitting somewhere in Eastern Europe.  Now what?
I see the unit there going through four phases, each of roughly 3 months.  In each of the first three phases, they work up their training in a specific phase of war.  For example, in the first phase, they could work on enabling operations, such as delay operations, advance to contact, etc.  Next phase, they could work on defensive operations, and in the third, work on offensive operations.  The last phase would be reserved for a coalition-level exercise, coordinated with the other three NATO battalions.
In each phase, the battlegroup would go through a cycle first of planning and then executing their training, culminating in a level 6 event.  Finally, the battlegroup would go through a rest and refit cycle of a few weeks.

It's a Deployment, not a posting
This is the key part.  The soldiers would deploy without their families or other dependents.  Yes, they would be able to get leave to go home, or even bring their families over to them.  This would be part of the rest and refit cycle.  

Have no doubt, this would be expensive in terms of capital and effort.  But it would pay massive dividends.  First and foremost, on the political front, Canada would be able to proudly announce that it is taking a leading role in NATO.  This would follow on our long service in Kandahar, but in this case, the risk to our national treasure would be low.  Also, it would serve notice to Russia that NATO is not a European or American alliance.  We as North Americans would be on the forefront of NATO, just as we were until we moved to the very south western tip of Germany in the late 1960s.  Prior to that, we were one of the most powerful brigades in all of NATO.  Were we to deploy as outlined above, we would have the cutting edge of our combat power deployed forward.  We are a G7 nation, and it's time we starting acting as such.


  1. Spot n Dave.

    The Signals plan would look like this:

    The NCE would be supported by an NCCIS troop providing NRL at the TFHQ level.

    The BGHQ would be supported primarily by the Bn Signals Platoon with augmentation from the Bde Signal Sqn (not deployed) that would provide wide area voice/data comms.

    The sabre units would rely on their integral signals troop/dets.

    1. Awesome. I knew that the Signal Plan would be key,but was unaware of the specific details.

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  3. Six of the proposed 16 platoons don't currently exist. Three of those we don't have the corporate knowledge to support in a meaningful way. Of the nine rifle platoons, Bns currently could fully stock maybe 60%, so let's say six of those nine. Of those nations listed we are the only one that doesn't have modern integral anti armour in the pls. I love the 84, but it's not going to cut the mustard foe what we'd need it to do.

    Yup, TOW is coming back online with a 1960s solution to 2020s problems, but this again is too little to be of major concern.

    Are we going mech? As at leaves us with only 6 Bns, or we again up train the light troops and extend their up training, which would probably look like a year at minimum for a years deployment. So let's say 15 months for light guys. So up to 27 months of family disruption on a nine year rotation. That's not gonna sit well.

    Right now we have to do some long hard looks in the mirror and understand we're not who we were and we won't be possibly ever, but definitely not anytime soon.

    Anti air.... I'll leave that there.

    Armoured recce is about to get a new vehicle that will take years to learn to operate.

    So if we had all the money in the world, experienced troops signing back up healthy and ready to go in record number and the required training elements win lost corporate knowledge then yup sign us up.

    The reality is this would need to be a posting, say a five year rotation with families.

    It would occur no sooner than five years from now when these agencies and weapon systems could be learned and required troops brought in and trained. And that would happen only if the political and public will existed which I doubt it does.

    But if we start building towards putting a battle ready force into a theatre of war like Europe with the intent of fighting and winning on the modern battlefield against a near peer, we need to understand that we require different TTPs, equipment and a mindset.

    The Americans have openly stated that they are outmanned and outgunned in Europe, even with all of their allies, against Russia. They have so many more vehicles including tanks that a force ill equipped to deal with modern armour on the battlefield would be a liability.

  4. Thank you for your input. All very well-thought out. Here is my reply:

    I disagree. We could, with the proper impetus and with novel solutions (Combat engineers forming "troops" called "pioneers", Artillerymen forming "troops" of mortars, etc)fill up all of those platoons. And there would be 12 rifle platoons, not nine. Not out of a single battalion, but the three battalions in each of the regular brigades would form these, or at least a majority, with the reserve force being told to ante up with complete platoons or whatever(as much as they could: LAV crews coming from the regular force, at least to start)
    Anti Armour Platoon isn't necessarily TOW, but Improved TOW (ITAS? Can't remember offhand) is certainly viable as a solution to act as a method for the infantry battlegroup to defend against tanks. (Top Attack, the “W” standing for “Wireless”, I believe).

    Yes, this would by necessity be mech, because our so-called light battalions could not survive in a mech fight, which is what Russia would throw at us *if* it came to blows (which I doubt would happen, but...)
    They have enough corporate knowledge in those battalions to work in a mech battalion (all officers having Phase IV, all WOs having, in theory, mech training on their DP 3B, and their infantrymen being able to dump out of the back of a LAV when told to dismount, etc)
    Anti Air is...well, that is of course a pipe dream, because we cannot even stop a Class 3 UAV from penetrating the airspace of Ottawa. But, given impetus, the capacity could be brought back online. Not tomorrow, but soon enough. And if it would take a long time to get this back, well, we better start now.
    As for time to get ready: if we cannot as an army put a single battalion out the door in 90 days or less, it is an ineffective army. I’m sure this would stretch the force, but if nothing else, it would provide a razor sharp focus for our training system. At least for the time being.
    As for a posting of 5 years with families: no. A thousand times no. It would provide for unnecessary “clag” (Schools, CANEX, PSP, Administrative MPs to deal with all the shitheads getting drunk in Warsaw...OK, that will happen anyway, but...). This could not be allowed to revert to 4 CMBG, but instead be more reminiscent of 4 CIBG in its early days.
    Anyway, if our G7 nation cannot put a single battlegroup of this size in the field, we ought to fold up shop and go home. I realize that this won’t happen, but it is certainly possible. But I personally don’t think that our army (corporate army, I mean) has the ability to plan this, let alone execute it.