An Oil Field Too Far???

March 7, 2003

Comment:  #477

Discussion Threads - Comment #s: #475 - Strategic Question for the Grand Strategic Dice Rollers  #348: Why Synchronization Dumbs Down Your OODA Loop

Attached references:

[Ref. 1] David H. Hackworth, "Hurry Up and Wait," DefenseWatch: The Voice of the Grunt," 02-26-2003

In the Fall of 1944, the British and the Americans believed the Germans were on their last legs and were incapable of putting up a major defense against their juggernaut. Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery departed from his normally excessive caution and conceived a daring plan to grab a bridge across the Rhine by combining an extended air assault with an armored thrust down a single road through Holland. The plan was to drop paratroopers behind enemy lines along the road to grab the various bridges in Holland as well as the bridge across the Rhine, then have the paratroopers secure and hold the bridges, while an armored corps rolled up the 60 miles of road to relieve the Paratroopers and then cross into Germany. Hopefully, the operational maneuver would open the door into the Ruhr and expand into a strategic thrust that would end the war before Christmas, 1944. But the tanks got bogged down for a variety of reasons, and Operation Market Garden, as it was known, degenerated into a disaster which has been memorialized by Cornelius Ryan's masterly book—A Bridge Too Far—as well as a splendid movie by the same name.

So, why the ancient history? If news reports are correct (and I am praying they are not, because we are telegraphing our punch if they are), the coming attack on Iraq may look eerily similar to the plan for Market Garden, except on a vastly larger scale.

These news reports are telling us that the ground attack will be preceded by an intense air campaign designed to weaken Saddam while doing minimal damage to the Iraqi people. Quickly thereafter, or perhaps simultaneously, according to these reports, we will airlift special operations forces, and elements of the 101st Airmobile Division and the 82nd Airborne Division in the northern reaches of Iraq (presumably to protect the Kirkuk oil fields and prevent the Kurds and perhaps the Turks from fighting each other). Meanwhile several heavy divisions, augmented by Marines and British Forces would roll out of Kuwait in a massive armored thrust toward Baghdad, which by road, could be as much as 300 miles away.

Sooner of later, given this general line of movement, geography tells us that it will be necessary for the heavy forces advancing from Kuwait to cross the Euphrates and move into Mesopotamia ... or the fertile floodplain between the Tigress and the Euphrates—which, as we saw in Blaster #475, is also a swamp waiting to happen, if Saddam blows the dykes, dams, and irrigation systems [see the article by David Wood attached to Blaster #475 for a discussion of the British expedition into Mesopotamia in 1915.] Now recall again Blaster #475: Officer XXX introduced us to some of the logistics problems that might slow the heavy forces of the Army down in this kind of operation.

David Hackworth, a highly decorated retired Army colonel, seems to agree that logistics could be a problem. He reports in Reference 1 below that grunts he is talking to in the field are also becoming very concerned about logistics bottlenecks that are already building up in Kuwait.

But there is more. I just received an email from Captain YYY which takes Officer XXX and me to task for understating the logistics problems in #475. Captain YYY is a tanker as well as student of maneuver warfare and the warfighting theories of the late American strategist Colonel Colonel John Boyd [See Blaster #348]. From his perspective, there are other problems beyond logistics that could slow down the ground movement and interfere with the American OODA Loop. Herewith, for your consideration, is the email describing his concerns.

Email from Captain YYY

Dear Chuck,

You and Officer XXX made some serious mistakes with respect to the logistics nightmare that will face the Army, should it invade Iraq (Blaster #475). These mistakes need to be cleared up, because the logistics problem described by Officer XXX is actually much worse than he stated.

First, the Army has a lot more M1A2 series of tanks than the Officer XXX realizes. Moreover, the M1A2s are all concentrated in one place: the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment (3rd ACR), which presumably would lead in the attack.

The Fourth Infantry Division (4th ID) has two battalions of M1A1D, one battalion of M1A1's, and 2 battalions of M1A2SEP's. The Third Infantry Division (3rd ID) is equipped with the M1A1HA, and they have been adding the digital Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below System (FBCB2 system) while they have been staging in Kuwait.

[The main differences between these different models of the M-1 tank are discussed in the end notes following this message.]

The diversity of tank models and communications capabilities has created some major problems that compound the logistics nightmare described by Officer XXX.

First, bear in mind M1A2's in the 3rd ACR are the only M1A2s in the combat forces. These tanks are being supported by a number of M1A2's that have been set aside as excess inventory, because no one else in the Army wants them. There are a number of problems within the M1A2. The Commanders Independent Thermal Device (IVIS) is a first generation thermal viewer and it is out of production. The IVIS is a digital map that can have overlays on it. Other tanks are being equipped with the FBCB2, but not the 3Rd ACR's.

The mismatch creates several problems: First, the manufacturer of IVIS went out of business, and the IVIS isn't being produced anymore. That makes it difficult to support and it requires cannibalization. Second, the IVIS cannot "talk" with FBCB2. In all probability, the 3rd ACR is going to lead the attack, but its recce feedback to follow on armored forces (i.e. either the 4th ID or 3rd ID) will have to be by voice communications only.

That does not sounds too bad, right? After all, Rommel managed his operations by voice. Think again—it is important to remember that we fight like we train.

The units with M1A1HA's (which have the FBCB2 added on but not integrated its other systems), the M1A1D's and the M1A2SEP's all train their crews to communicate primarily with FBCB2. It is intended to be the centerpiece of the synchronized digital battlefield and lies at the core of the theory of dominant battlespace knowledge.

When the crews of the 3rd ACR tanks leading the attack send situation reports (or SITREPs) back to the following units, the receiving units will not have the capability to update their maps electronically on their FBCB2 systems. Someone in these units will probably input the data manually and then feed it to the other tanks. This will slow down and confuse the decision cycle or the organizational OODA loop. First, it will stretch out the time of the decision cycle; second, the conversion of voice to digital will increase the opportunity for the introduction of operator errors; and third, and perhaps most important, it will cause our decision cycle, or OODA Loop, to focus inward on itself rather than on the enemy.

I can not overstate the seriousness of this problem. I've met a few guys who have been on M1A2's and M1A2SEP's in 1st CAV, 4th ID and 3rd ACR, and they all said that they would call in all SITREPS (and "issue" operational graphics) over FBCB2, to include menial tasks such as a single engagement on TTVIII (Tank Table VIII is the individual tank qualification gunnery). These guys will have to adapt to a different situation in combat because of the manual feed, which complicates decision making when bullets are flying and the fog, friction, and fear of combat impedes our action.

Getting back to the M1A2 situation. There are a limited number of M1A2's that are excess to the Army right now. The 3rd ACR has been cannibalizing parts off these tanks to keep their own running. So the total tanks available for cannibalization of these parts is unknown. To make matters worse, the modernization plan for 3rd ACR (which originally had them receiving M1A2SEP's in 2005, then altered to M1A1D's in 2005) has now been cut it out entirely. In other words, the 3rd ACR is going to be in M1A2's for a long time.

So what's the bottom line for the grunts at the front? The troops in the M1A1's and M1A1HA tanks are currently trying to figure out how to use FBCB2, which is a very temperamental piece of equipment at its best, while the troops in the M1A2 units can't communicate (outside of voice communications) with any other unit! Moreover, a good friend of mine who has been in the 1st Cavalry Division told me that biggest problem with the M1A2 (not the SEP- they fixed the problem) was that the computer equipment was going haywire in the summer at Ft. Hood, because the designers forgot to put cooling devices around the main computer components! In fact, when I attended the Armor Captains Career Course, a Staff Sergeant, who was a M1A2SEP instructor, informed me that the tank would actually start up on its own sometimes due to the amount of computerization in the tank.

Endnotes: Difference Between Tank Models

[1] The M1A1 has been the main battle tank of the US Army since the 1980's. There are a number of variants, with the armor protection being the reason for the different variants. The M1A1, or "slick" does not have depleted uranium armor. 1-68 Armor, 3 BDE, 4th Infantry Division, is one of these units. The M1A1HA, or "Heavy Armor" is the main battle tank of the US Army today. This tank has depleted uranium armor, but in all other aspects is the same as the M1A1. There are also M1A1HA+, and M1A1HA++, which are M1A1HA tanks with additional armor protection. Every unit outside of III Corps (3rd ACR/4th ID/1st CAV) are equipped with some variant of the M1A1 tank.

[2] The M1A1D, or "Delta" tank, is a M1A1HA tank with digital communication capability. The Force Twenty-One Brigade and Below (FBCB2) digital overlay system is the main addition to this series of tank. This system is critical, as it allows commanders to visually track units over the digital map, and also allows the dissemination of information between echelons. The M1A1D tank is in use by 1 BDE, 4th ID only. There was a plan to equip more units with M1A1D's a while back, but budget adjustments and cuts have limited this purchase.

[3] The M1A2 is the first tank to incorporate a number of new technologies. This tank first came into the inventory in the early 1990's, and the Saudi Arabians also purchased a number of these tanks. The major differences between the M1A1 and the M1A2 are second generation armor protection, the Commanders Independent Thermal Viewer (This allows the tank commander to identify and acquire targets, then he can slew the sight to the gunner, who then picks up the scan. The tank commander then continues to scan for more targets. This is known as the hunter-killer concept.), the Inter-Vehicular Information System (a pre-cursor to the FBCB2) and some other minor additions such as a digital compass. The M1A2 is used by the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, but the Army has been trying to get rid of the tank as many components are not compatible with the latest technologies or the vendor support has disappeared.

[4] The M1A2SEP is the latest Main Battle Tank the Army has procured. It was first introduced to the Army in the mid-1990's. The M1A2SEP features a number of improvements over the M1A2, such as improved and additional armor, a 2nd Generation CITV (it has 2nd Generation Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) sights), and a new engine. The engine is more fuel efficient, but is still a turbine. The 2nd Generation FLIR is amazing. It is a great piece of equipment that is light years ahead of the 1st Generation equipment. There is additional, and improved armor, which increases both the protection of the crew and the weight of the vehicle.

Chuck Spinney

"A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." - James Madison, from a letter to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822

[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]

Reference 1

Hurry Up and Wait

By David H. Hackworth
DefenseWatch "The Voice of the Grunt"

"This on-again, off-again, yes, you're going, no, you're not crap is getting old," grouses a young combat leader at Fort Hood, Tex.

The tens of thousands of warriors waiting in the Gulf and stateside are singing a similar lament. According to a 1st Cavalry Division captain in Texas, "The orders change weekly. One day the word is 'it's Iraq' and the next 'it's Korea.'"

Soldiering has always been about go and no go, wild rumors and operational plans not making it past the first battlefield shell-burst. But Operation Get Saddam - which began at least two years ago, long before 9/11, when the Pentagon's Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz began their campaign to bring down the Butcher of Baghdad - would have to be the most peripatetic war plan in our country's history.

The SecDef and his No. 2 initially thought they could "do" Saddam using mainly stealth warriors - Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces - U.S. whiz-bang air power and a rent-an-army of exiles.

"First the op was Desert Storm Light, modeled after our invasion of Afghanistan," says a planner now in Kuwait with George Patton's old Third Army headquarters, tasked to run the ground war.

But then Gen. Tommy Franks, the overall combat commander, dug in his heels because he knows the Iraqi Republican Guard tank divisions are killer bees compared with the Afghani Taliban fleas. He told the Pentagon couch commandos that the Afghan model wouldn't cut it in Iraq, that a smart invasion would require hundreds of thousands of American troops, war toys and tons of supplies.

Ike knew he'd launch from the British Isles and hit France more than a year before D-Day, which made his 1944 Normandy invasion calculations look like a day at the Officer's Club compared with the burning hoops Gen. David McKiernan - Tommy Franks' guy on the ground - and his team have been jumping through. One of McKiernan's staff officers says, "The Pentagon chiefs initially laid on us more than was humanly possible."

First the general had the OK to attack from the north, south, east and west. Then the Saudis restricted offensive ops from their turf and even prevented our soldiers from passing through their kingdom with rifles, while the Jordanians' threats to toss out their king jeopardized McKiernan's western punch. Then the Turks raised the bribe by asking for more billions, temporarily blocking the northern option. Not to mention that the attack date keeps getting pushed back by the maneuvers of the U.N. inspectors and the manipulations of a predominately anti-war U.N. Security Council.

McKiernan has to watch the clock as carefully as a surgeon eyeballs his scalpel: Every passing day gives Saddam more time to prepare his Stalingrad-like defenses and wire his oil wells with demolitions; the spring desert rains are even now filling the dams, which Saddam could blow and turn our Army's approach to Baghdad into an amphibious op; and come April, the summer desert sun will shine mercilessly on McKiernan's NBC-clad (nuclear, biological, chemical) soldiers.

Then there's the lifeline of war, logistics. Elements of the 4th Infantry Division have practically grown sea legs floating around the Mediterranean waiting for that Turk green light - green being the operative word - while Kuwait's tiny Ash Shu'ayba port has become another possible spoiler. Without the superb infrastructure of Desert Storm's Saudi ports, our supply ships can't unload with the required FedEx efficiency.

A logistics guy there says, "The port's backed up like a pizza parlor run by spastics. My biggest worry is our logistical pipeline won't be able to sustain our fighting elements."

And worry he should. Neither George W. Bush nor Third Army can afford a logistical mega-snafu on the level of George Patton's tanks running out of gas on their way to Berlin, a screw-up which both prolonged the war in Europe by six months and seriously ratcheted up the body bags and Purple Hearts.

McKiernan should be given a medal just for keeping his cool. Sure, time, another key factor in war, has worked for Saddam, but it has also helped "Lucky Forward" - Third Army - as it has allowed the good general to replace the Pentagon's bad plan with one that will hopefully ace the Iraqi army from the get-go.