31 December 2009

Low Signatures and modern conflict

DoDBuzz has a great summation of an article on Beating The Low Signature Enemy
When the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) battled Hezbollah to basically a draw in southern Lebanon in summer 2006, one thing that really stymied the IDF was what Israeli Brig. Gen. Itai Brun called Hezbollah’s “strategy of disappearance”: Hezbollah fighters set up command posts and arms stores in civilian buildings; launched rockets from near mosques and schools; used “low signature” weapons, such as mortars, anti-​​tank missiles and shoulder launched surface-​​to-​​air missiles; and spent years building extensive below ground fortifications including a maze of tunnels and bunkers.

The IDF, which had prepped for high-​​intensity battle against Syrian tank armies, was unprepared for an asymmetric, low-​​signature enemy that refused to stand in the open and smile for the electronic eyes on overhead drones and aircraft and thermal sights on Merkava main battle tanks. The IDF took fairly heavy casualties trying to root out dug-​​in Hezbollah combat cells and never did stop the rain of rockets fired from southern Lebanon into Israeli towns.

edited - go read the original!
According to the draft paper, distributed maneuver is the “fluid maneuver of operational or tactical units separated beyond the limits of direct and mutual support,” yet acting in unison to attack the enemy across a very large battlefield and penetrate deep into the enemy’s territory. Using a combination of rapidly moving ground and air forces, and direct and indirect fires, deep maneuver “serves to isolate the adversary from forms of support, negates his ability to shift resources or react in a decisive manner.” By striking deep into the opponent’s center of gravity, wherever or whatever that might be, distributed maneuver forces the hybrid threat to react, in essence, to move or fire, and thus raise his signature level, thus negating the “disappearing tactics.”

The ideal end state is to produce a series of actions that “creates for the enemy a rapidly deteriorating, cascading effect, shattering his cohesion”; an operational concept familiar to those who followed the “maneuver warfare” school that was popular in the 1980s.

The distributed maneuver concept requires:

• Operational or tactical combined arms teams
• Parallel operations across the depth and breadth of the battlefield
• C2 agility – enable lower echelons to respond rapidly
• Fast paced, interdependent combined arms maneuver capable of penetrating deep into enemy territory
• Compressed sensor-​​shooter links and precision fires
• Ability to supply ground forces without exposing oneself to an enemy’s IED kill zones.

The paper uses as an operational vignette an Israeli thrust into southern Lebanon: an IDF-​​Hezbollah round two if you will. Hezbollah is entrenched in both urban and mountainous terrain and in densely populated areas and all roads in are seeded with IEDs and EFPs. The IDF strikes deep with heliborne troops to the Litani River, while distributed armored shock groups simultaneously move rapidly into southern Lebanon, avoiding roads and fixed defenses, aiming for Hezbollah’s command nodes, rocket forces and supply lines.

Do you think the US forces are capable of this type of conflict? Should they change their approach to warfighting to match this new reality, even at the risk of losing high-intensity warfare skills?

By: Brant

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