Theory of conventional land warfare at low force density again

There's a thing that you must not neglect when weaker and on the defence, even if this means neglecting everything else; reconnaissance and surveillance. The less assets you have, the more crucial it is to know how best to use them, and when to extract them from a crisis situation. You need knowledge about the enemy more than ever.

It's quite the same at low force density (few troops in a large region); some small element may encounter a superior hostile element any time because troops are not evenly dispersed. Local inferiority emphasises the importance of knowledge about the enemy. It's essential to avoid superior forces (or to delay them) and it's essential to extract a weaker element in a situation of impending doom.

The other ingredient is artillery, since it potentially covers a large area (or frontage) with its fires and is the quickest reinforcement for a locally inferior force.

General Otis, who had lived on that terrain, was also concerned about the ability of the two weak brigades to hold or even to cover 20 kilometres of ground. General Balck countered by saying that he would rely heavily an artillery in this sector.

There's still no major arms racing despite heavy mechanised forces and artillery have become fashionable in European NATO again. War scenarios for the defence of NATO (= what matters for conventional deterrence) are still showing a lower force density than the Cold War's Central European scenarios where a mere 26 NATO divisions faced a superior quantity of WP divisions on a roughly 1,000 km wide front for the first week. One brigade per 10-15 km frontage was a thin 'line', nowadays it's not unreasonable to expect temporary gaps as wide a a hundred km between brigades.

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This should lead to a preference for scouting/skirmishing and artillery forces for "first two weeks of conflict" NATO ground forces in my opinion.

Instead, we see indications that more tank battalions and more artillery battalions will be raised in Germany after there was a perceived need to raise more infantry (Jäger) battalions during the Afghanistan occupation years. I have no knowledge of accurate plans (and doubt there are such plans yet), but there seems to be a neglect of scouting.

I write "scouting" for a reason; "observation" is not neglected. There are fine observation vehicles and (old) battlefield radars in use. Maybe the long range recon patrols (Fernspäher) should be more numerous (and accordingly less "special"), but overall surveillance and observation have gotten a lot attention post-Cold War. Technological progress was happening, and it was fashionable to exploit it (long range thermal cameras mostly).
It's the scouting part that's missing. Germany gave up the Luchs 8x8 vehicle years ago (out of service since 2009). It was quite silent, but its concept was stuck in the 1930's**. Nowadays we'd need something with a better gun, with better sensors, much smaller and with 360° camera coverage instead of a second driver for driving backwards. Sadly, there's no such vehicle available off-the-shelf that doesn't have the drawback of a too high ground pressure. It seems that either the expectations for the armament or the expectation for smallness won't be met. We have a choice between something Panhard VBL-like*** with a light armament (no more than a 20 mm gun such as the M621) and something as big as the Panhard SPHINX****.

It doesn't quite seem as if the doctrinal mistake of giving up scouting and focusing on surveillance & observation is going to be corrected in Germany and several other European countries (obviously excluding France) any time soon. The fashionable status of conventional land forces for deterrence should have led to more attention on scouting, but it doesn't seem so.

This may be because of the hopes on aerial drones as eyes in the sky. Aerial drones will not deliver persistent surveillance over a European battlefield, though. Much less will they be able to do true scouting here in the 2020's. They won't look into garages and sheds, under bridges, into buildings, talk to civilians, judge the state of foliage-covered forestry roads et cetera. This may become feasible in the long term (2030+), but that's a mere possibility and the gap is real. We shouldn't need to parcel out main battle tank trios for (noisy!) scouting while we have but a couple hundred of those.

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This was so far mostly about "economy of force"; the weak forces that avert disaster in most places with as few assets as possible so the Schwerpunkt actions can be as powerful (irresistible) as possible.

I'd like to add that this temporal parallelism is not necessary, and at times not even advisable. We should strive to shape the battlefield in our favour before seeking a battle***** - battles should be decided ahead by preparations, not during the battle itself. This means that the conceptual and doctrinal Schwerpunkt should be on those forces that shape the battlefield in our favour. Scouting and skirmishing forces attached to corps or theatre command may do this by reconnaissance, counter-reconnaissance and interdiction of supply flows.

We should pay more attention to such scouting, skirmishing and raiding forces. MBT battalions represent a brute force approach that befit the targets of a strategic surprise attack much less.

one more link to a related post:


*: Attack helicopters were believed to be very quick reaction forces during the 1970's (Brossolet et al) under the impression of experiments which yielded an exaggerated estimate of attack helicopters' lethality against tanks and before army officers began to understand how easy it had become for fighters to kill helicopters even at treetop altitudes. Helicopters are slower than artillery anyway; Artillery may intervene in a 4 minute skirmish 30 km away, while helicopters would arrive several minutes late.
**: Daimler Benz had a prototype 8x8 of such a concept in 1927 and the Büssig-NAG Sd.Kfz 231 of 1937 was almost identical to the Bundeswehr's Luchs in its concept.
***: SPHINX  and many other scout cars neglect the ability to comfortably and quickly dismount one scout to inspect buildings, climb to a better vantage point, look under a bridge and so on.
****: Germany could  upgun its Fennek, but its ground pressure is too high for soft soils without a substantial armament already. There are plenty soft soils in Eastern Europe, even in summer.
*****: I reject the inflationary use of the word "battle" for just about every firefight. I don't count anything smaller than a contact with more than a thousand dead as a "battle". Anything smaller is a "skirmish" (Scharmützel) at most.


  1. The Russians are already very good at anti-UAV warfare and electronic warfare. Can we substitute UAVs for scouting, then? It seems highly unlikely.

    1. That's so far mostly about disrupting radio links. It doesn't keep drones from searching, detecting, returning and reporting.

    2. There is already at least one serially produced Russian anti-drone gun. http://antikopter.ru/perenosnoy-kompleks-elektromagnitnogo-i-optiko-elektronnogo-podavleniya-bespilotnykh-letatelnykh-apparatov-grazhdanskogo-naznacheniya-pkp-bpla

    3. That's one of those directional radio and SatNav jammers. A drone with inertial navigation chips and autopilot would continue its mission in face of such countermeasures.

      There's not going to be the one countermeasure anyway. Bird-like drones require different tools (shotguns and other small arms, nets, maybe small fighter drones) than larger drones meant for maybe 1,000 m altitude. Drones with low radar observability that fly above ManPADS ceilings would require yet another set of countermeasures.
      To jam radio or SatNav would reduce the repertoire of military drones, but not defeat any but the most stupidly designed ones.

  2. Finnish battalions and brigades can conduct far reaching recon and surveillance. Battalion has recon platoon and brigade recon company. Their vehicle is dependant on the mother unit but all are capable of dismounted recon. Also all FO squads can be used and there are FO batteries that are speficially used for surveillance of large areas that otherwise would be empty of troops.

    1. I laid out in the second last link of this post why organic scout organisation is stupid.


    2. I see your point and disagree. I know you favour crosstraining and using infantry for recon. Such missions can last for days and any personnel allotted to such mission will hamper platoons/companies ability to operate during that period. Jaeger companies in Finland have organic recon squad and all platoons conduct close recon related to companies need for information. Having recon platoon HQ joined with battalion HQ enables fast processing of the intelligence and decision making. Having jaeger companies conduct recon that isn't possible.

    3. In that context I would rather expect LRRP teams of 5-6 to conduct the recce and surveillance.

    4. All finnish recon platoons and companies (excluding those of armored battlegroups and Karelia Jaegerbrigade that uses CV90s and Leo2s) are essentially LRRPs even though they're not called that. The Border guard and Border jaeger companies carry the legacy of WW2 "kaukopartio", direct translation long distance patrol. Finnish recon team is 12-man strong and can therefore cover pretty large area.

    5. Regardless of how the small units look, I made my case at the other blog post that the need for recce troops correlates with terrain, not with manoeuvre forces in the terrain. The recce troops should thus be Corps assets, not subordinated to manoeuvre elements like companies or battalions.

      Another reason is that uneven casualty rates among the recce troops of different manoeuvre elements would be a huge problem, whereas recce troops of a corps could simply readjust how fine their recce net in this or that place is to compensate for losses.

    6. Since finnish terrain is very similar everywhere it makes sense to make recon units similar. Border troops belong to Army Corps or Military Districts in wartime so they're the Corps recon element you've been talking about and we have recon troops at all levels from company to Defence Forces HQ. Most finnish battlegroups are very static as a whole but maneuver a lot within battalion's AO. We have only a handful of battlegroups and two brigades that qualify as maneuver force. Having capable recon troops at all levels enables commanders to use their subordinates recon troops for their own missions which can counteract attrition to some degree.

  3. >> I have no knowledge of accurate plans (and doubt >>>there are such plans yet), but there seems to be a >>neglect of scouting.>>>

    There was a Frontal 21 report not long ago in which the new plans for the structure of the German Heer were detailed and some plans leaked.


    >>>We have a choice between something Panhard >>>VBL-like*** with a light armament (no more than a 20 mm gun such as the M621) and something as big as the >>Panhard SPHINX****.>>>

    In my opinion a new RECCE Version of the LAV-25 would be a very low priced and advantegous option. To lower ground pressure one can use a tracks over wheels equipment like the one recently developed from STK (Singapur) which would lead to a kind of halftrack for difficult terrain. Moreover it is amphibious and could be air-dropped.

    For armament i would not put heavy conventional machine cannons in a turrett on such a vehicle. With a recoilless machine cannon like the RMK-35 such a vehicle would have enormous firepower in comparison to weight and size.

    And for the sensor phalanx one could easily use existing systems which are delivered actually for example for the canadian (LAV 6.0) or the Australian Army (LAND400). The named sensor suites would also fit in an LAV-25.

    Such a solution would not be off the shelf, but all the named systems are fielded and can be bought on the spot and the LAV-25 as the basic plattform is fully developed and combat proven and very cheap.

    1. This wasn't about hardware, it was about doctrine and priorities.

      The part about VBL and SPHINX was merely hinting that there would be trade-offs, which again would need to be answered by a doctrinal choice.
      Something like SPHINX would be much more combat-oriented, while something like VBL would be rather small and more numerous, but individually much less combat-capable.

  4. If i may ask a question in this context? In other posts of yours you suggest a light mechanised scouting regiment with many (independent) companies which then can raid deep into the territory through the gaps.

    Why not size this even up from the concept and create complete brigades of such troops ? So all this scouting/raiding/light mechanised forces would be concentradet in such a brigade? This kind of troops would also be very flexible and usable troops in many ways, also in "colonial" / "expenditonary" warfare.

    In such a compact brigade such Scouting Troops could very easy also have organic lightweight artillery (for example ARCHER), air-defence which can also be used for anti-tank (Multi Mission Launcher) and ECM/ECCM abilities and the can diverse for infiltrating and then raiding deep into the room, and then fast concentrate for combat and because of the bigger size and more abilities in the TOE such a Scouting Brigade would have much more fighting power and could therefore achieve much more damage.

    Instead of a regiment i would suggest a brigade of such troops, organised then in bataillons and with some organic light infantry and light mechanised pioneers in it. What would you think about that ?

    1. There's an overlap between regiment and brigade, though I think "brigade" signals a combined arms formation while regiment usually doesn't (and sometimes a "regiment" is merely a big battalion).

      The Americans had the armored cavalry regiment which was very weak on infantry and meant as a screening force. It's not quite what I am thinking of, though. An ACR would be mis-used as a tank brigade because it's too similar to one.

      Regarding organic arty and air defence in skirmisher/raiding forces; think this
      on scout tanks/cars (scouting tanks additionally HVMs) plus a few specialised and longer-ranged assets in support platoons that hide and don't scout themselves.

      The skirmisher companies could be combined with a light infantry/ranger battalion to provide direct fire, AT, indirect fires and air defence to said light infantry. There would even be a few APCs.
      So in case the scenario does not befit skirmishing/raiding or the doctrine fails in general there's still a combined arms use for these forces.

      Your concept is what the Americans had in ACRs, and would lead to what they meant to do with ACRs. It would particularly lead to thinking in terms of battalion battlegroups, not in autonomous companies.
      You won't so easily encircle a deployed opposing forces' brigade if you don't break your forces down into companies as units of manoeuvre. To cut off four possible routes would require four battalion battlegroups - more forces than the encircled brigade itself. It's much more efficient if you can do so with four or up to eight companies.

    2. I meant a combined arms formation, thats the reason why i wrote about a scouting brigade. Of cause such an unit could be used as an (fast and light) tank brigade, but this does not mean, that it is used in this way always and under every circumstances, to the opposite: that you can use it this way additionaly i would not see as an disadvantage, but an advantage. It gives this unit more flexibility and more options. And especillay the size to sustain and fight on after losses. That you have more and more differen troops under your disposal does not mean, that you cannot send forward autonomous scouting companies. You could even design them from the start as autonmous companies withhin the brigade and therefore spare logistic/supply/maintaince troops so this kind of brigade would become even slighter and therefore faster.

      What i am talking about is a brigade with autonomous scouting companies and additional more striking power, especially nlos firepower in form of true (and light and fast) artillery and independent tank-hunting companies, pionieers and so on.

      So such a brigade would not send four bataillon battlegroups to cut of four routes, but indipendent companies and can then assist this companies with its own strong nlos firepower, can assist them in difficult terrain with its own pioniers and so on.

      That you have an brigade an bataillons does not mean that you have to use bataillon battlegroups. You can split such an bataillon as easily like an regiment.

      And if you use the units not this way, the unit as a whole then has much more combined arms fighting power, which i would regard as an advantage, especilly because you must not use other units firepower in this case to strengthen it or have to presume it to other units.

      Moreover such strong and organic firepower would give the said companies much more defence against enemy counter-attacks and much more destroying power in the rear areas of the enemy and in cases of combat by opportunity in comparison if the only use their own medium calibre weaponry.

    3. I want to try to make a direct comparison of your design and TOE of such an unit with other ideas about it, including mine:

      If i understand you correctly you are talking about a kind of regimental combat team with a strength equivalent of around 16 companies:

      1 HQ/radio/ECM/ECCM Unit, 8 Scout Companies (strengthened with a support platoon), 1 Sustainment/Maintaince-Unit, 1 Infantry (Ranger)-Bataillon (strengthened with anti-tank, indirect fire and air-defence)

      This would lead to an ratio of at least 11 subunits which is extremly difficult to lead and to coordinate and therefore for wasted efforts, swarming, and piecemeal. I doubt that such swarms of companies can withstand an coordinated counter-attack if you surround an enemy unit with 6 - 8 such companies.

      That does not mean i suggest bataillon battlegroups instead but the companies would need in my opinion two things: 1 another kind of toe that enables them to coordinate their efforts better and 2 more organic (indirect) firepower - and because this cannot be realised in the companies for themselve they need a kind of very fast and light organic artillery-unit in the context of an bigger subunit.

      McGregor was describing such an structure since 1997 in his light reconaissance strike group which would have:

      3 Recce Bataillons, 1 C4I Bataillon, 1 Strike-Bataillon and 1 Sustainment Bataillon. An Force of about 24 companies which is 8 companies stronger than yours and therefore a kind of brigade.

      My idea about this would be to combine:

      2 Scouting Bataillons, 1 Infantry (Ranger)-Bataillon, 1 Missile-Bataillon (Air-Defence and Rocket Artillery, 1 C4ISR Bataillon (with UCAV Company) and 1 Support Bataillon (with Pioneer-Unit)

      Which would also mean 6 Bataillons and arround 24 companies like the LRSG but with more air-defence, and light infantry and so more versatile.

      That does not mean you then build a bataillon battle-group, but that you split the scouting-bataillons into companies and use them instead and they can use the organic missile/UCAV firepower of the brigade and addding to the this the indirect firepower of other units. Moreover such a toe would over more sustainability and flexiblity and such a unit would be more than useful in many coin scenarios.

    4. No, that's not what I meant. The rangers would be completely separate. To team up with them is but a plan B for concept risk management.

      It's more like this:
      Skirmishers use ~40 ton tracked vehicles and ~ 20 ton tracked support vehicles. They are fairly combat-oriented (delaying actions, probing, interdiction, counterrecce). They would be the ones that cause much trouble around OPFOR manoeuvre brigades.

      Raiders are similar, but would use 6x6 vehicles instead, are much more stealth-oriented and have much greater endurance (1,500 km on road + use of captured fuels). Their firepower would be quite the same, albeit with less anti-MBT rounds.
      They would be the ones that raid hundreds of km deep, even into airbases.
      Both skirmishers and raiders infiltrate and exfiltrate LRRP teams. Raiders may serve as skirmishers in some terrains.

      Skirmishers and raiders would NOT be lead in the classic way of one Rgt HQ controlling 3-5 subordinate manoeuvre elements. Instead, they would have an area of operation assigned by Corps HQ. Same with the LRRPs.

      Essentially, they would operate like Type VII Uboats in the 2nd Battle of the Atlantic. This includes pulsing swarm (wolfpack) attacks on major targets and the use of such swarms for de facto encirclement.
      Think of how wide the span of command was for the 2nd Battle of the Atlantic! No rule of 3, 4 or 5 applied because of loose control through missions.

      The Coy TOE would see companies of 3 scout platoons + 1 support platoon and two companies would be sent on a common mission.
      The two support platoons would offer redundancy of support and might each keep one scout platoon nearby for security.

      I recommend this for inspiration:

    5. Just curious where do you think such maneuver could be pulled off? Or what geographical area you had in mind when visioning such capabilities and TO&E? This is especially interesting scenario if the defender uses such ability and counterattacks into the attackers rear, through habitated industrial areas against military targets. Not even Russia can defend every square kilometer so attacking into Russian heartland would be somewhat feasible.

    6. Many battlefields would be possible, but the force density would need to be low (no "front line" secured enough to make infiltration and exfiltration too risky).

      - Eastern Europe
      - East Asia (RU vs. PRC)
      - could have worked for South Africans in the 80's
      - could be used in a utterly hypothetical Pampa conflict

      The LRDG of WW2 is an analogy for the raiders, light cavalry (horse archers etc.) is another analogy.

    7. I am convinced that such a doctrine would lead to piecemeal, and a waste of efforts which will achive not so much as you think. Such swarms are very vulnerable for coordinated counter-attacks and many circumstances which made this strategy possible in the past are not longer available today. The times has changed, the densitiy of the population is extremly much higher, the possibilty that you will not encounter only military batallions but you have to fight the people as a whole is much bigger and you think to much in my opinion in the categories of the cabinet wars which is in my opinion often a failure in your strategic thinking .

      The RAND study claims that three factors enable such a swarm to win: Elusiveness—either through mobility or concealment / A longer range of firepower—standoff capability /
      Superior situational awareness.

      Today no such ground unit could pass without permanent surveillance at least from the civilian population which all have smartphones, cameras, internet and so on. The densitiy of recording devices and of the surveillance as a whole is unreached in history as is the fastness in which information can be transported and spread.

      Simply you will not have the necessary superior situational awareness, but the enemy will have about you.

      And the enemy will use air-assets to counter such swarms and no wonder-weapon-75mm-multipurpose-cannon will prevent this. Simple ucavs will always be faster than the ground vehicle swarm and will harm it sufficient so that it cannot reach its targets. Mines and artillery will finish the rest. Without aircover and without own sufficient nlos firepower such a swarm would not survive nlos counterattacks and support-platoons have not sufficient mass for serious c-ram or serious air-defence.

      One can find such a swarm much easier from the air than on the opposite the swarm can find the target in the air and the air is faster, so the swarm looses this factor too.

      This leads directly to the question of the elusivnes: ground vehicles 6 x 6 with around 20 tons are not elusive enough even against a coordinated counter-attack of enemy armour. They cannot conceal enough against modern sensor capabilites and cannot run fast enough in difficult terrain. So they must use roads to be fast enough to evade the counter-attack and then they are easy prey for air assets and artillery.

      So far as i can see it, none of the three mentioned factors which RAND claims are decisive for swarming can be achieved today with 6x6 armoured vehicles.

      The submarine war in the atlantic is also not an good example because such vehicles cannot dive underwater and in the ocean there are only few units in the see so the troop and sensor density is extremly low. Especilly the last point was of utmost importance and afther 1942 then the allies had a better surveillance the submarines failed and had enourmos losses. On land in modern countries the sensor density is extremly high (civilian population, smartphones, internet and so on) and this would break such a doctrine the neck.

      The piecemeal of scattered raiding companies would only lead to enourmos losses amongst the raiders and to very low effects in comparison to the input. Of cause they would destroy some things and would be an annoyance, but the effects would not be sufficient.

      The times has changed and the factors which are necessary are today not longer given.

    8. Well, one by one:

      Everything is vulnerable. That's modern warfare. In fact, dispersion is being considered to be one of the biggest survivability enhancers, and wrote about great dispersion.

      Civilians would neither have electrical power nor landline phone service nor mobile phone service. They won't report much unless they own a satellite phone or talk to troops directly.

      The odds of civilians observing and identifying raiders during their nightly movements or during daytime in a hideout are marginal.
      6x6 AFVs look like normal lorries on GMTI radars and are thus extremely difficult to discern from civilian traffic by radars.

      Generally, if the opposing forces muster the surveillance and combat assets to defeat the raiders in a 200,000 sq km are that would be great. Such an effort is self-defeating - it would lend a few raider battalions a war-winning diversion effect.

      Abtou modern sensor capabilities; on paper they are great, in face of countermeasures in a large area not so much. Remember the Americans' disappointment about being unable to detect more than half the fighting positions of Tora Bora with a huge concentration of modern sensors.

      Overall your comment has a feel of typical conservative reactions to reform proposals. A critique of imperfections WITHOUT taking into account that the status quo is riddled with imperfections.
      A reform proposal does not need to achieve perfection. It needs to improve on the status quo only.
      I suppose it's self-evident that a platoon of silenced 6x6 AFVs is much more difficult to detect and engage than a deployed company of MBTs.

    9. If the (greatest part of the) civilian population is without electrical power and without internet we are in a condition that the war is lost. Then raiding-companies will not acchieve anything because the decision has alreay taken place. Our society as a whole would collapse completly without electrical power within a few days (or even faster, there are studies of the police that claim a collapse even in one day under determined circumstances).

      But even in sieged cities in syria and iraq and even in the combat zone in this cities were still many people connected to each other and to the internet and was this militarily important for IISR.

      And what hidehouts would hide a company of such armoured vehicles for a day ? The densitiy of the civilian population is simply to high for that. Moreover there is no advantage today in using the night for movement because thermal imaging, night vision and so on has become to good. Simple and very cheap uavs can use very good sensors today. And there is definitly a difference between an armoured raiding company driving 1000 km into enemy territory and deep tunnel hideouts in the mountains. Moreover the sensor and the uav technology has developed very much since tora bora and are still developing.

      For myself i own for example an mini-talon uav which is extremly cheap and such uavs can be produced in mass-production in a war economy in extreme numbers. It flys up to 120 km/h and can then reach up to 300 km. And this is not the newest and best available technology in this sector. Swarms of such uavs connected to each other and very cheap and extreme fast produced could cover immense territories and with add on information from the civilian population such raiding units will be identified and then destroyed from the air or through long range (rocket) artillery or a counter-attack of reserve forces. All of them they cannot parry because they lack a schwerpunkt, cannot coordinate themselfe and so you are able to concentrate superior troops at any point and become always locally superior in troops without many troops for the over-all-effort.

      At this point i want to ask your for the targets of the raiding units and their operative and strategic goals? You mentioned for example air-fields. That does mean, that one can anticipate what the target is and therefore what the direction of movement of such units would be. Such routes could be very easy monitored then. What else could they achieve (in company strength)? Destroying fabrics ? Rampaging ? You mentioned diversion: of cause such units would cause chaos and would perhaps threaten the rearward areas.

      But i am convinced that the uav/ucav technology will make such a doctrine for armoured ground troops very difficult because the air can monitor much greater areas and is faster than such armoured ground units could be.

      So i am convinced that my reaction is not a conservative one. I do not want to use MBTs, but i want to use swarms. Swarms of uavs and ucavs, and especilly autonomous ones. The future of scouting (and raiding) will belong to swarms of unmanned air-vehicles, even uavs that carry smaller uavs and that will act autonomous and in reactive swarms. Such uavs could be produced in small sizes even cheaper than the ammunition for the tanks and are much more versatile and flexible than any ground vehicle.

      PS: I like this doctrine anyway. Still better than anything what the freezed pighead soldiers in the military think. One could also combine very easily such an doctrine with my uav/ucav doctrine.

    10. Try to concentrate, please. The electrical blackout was about NATO 6x6 AFV raiding hundreds of km deep in hostile territory. You were concerned about civilians reporting those vehicles, remember?
      That blackout is not about Central or Western Europe (though I think it's near-self-evident that such a blackout would occur anyway, but unrelated to the aforementioned raiders).

      Population density isn't great in Eastern Europe either. Let's take Belarus as representative (though unlikely) terrain:
      Using wikipedia figures for convenience, we see 45.7 pop/sq km at 70% urbanization - rank 142 in population density world-wide. German population density is four times as high.

      The weird way of war in the Mid East and Donezk basin is NOT relevant to European great powers clashes. Utilities more or less keep working in Syria across front lines. The European way of war is different. The devastation would only be limited by intent. The civilians wouldn't flee over a period of 3 years - they would flee within 3 weeks at most.

      Your UAVs are not going to live up to expectations until they are given really good AI and full autonomy. I'm almost sure that we would avoid such an outcome through diplomacy until months into WW3.

      You asked about the objectives of raiders (save for the occasional skirmisher role and defensive employment scenarios):
      - airfield raids
      - airfield siege (shooting at aircraft taking off or landing)
      - shooting down helicopters in cruise flight
      - shooting down transport and some other support aircraft in cruise flight
      - air defence batteries
      - bridges
      - power grid
      - fuel storages
      - supply dumps
      - lorries/convoys
      - rear HQs
      - airports
      - army aviation field bases
      - SRBM units
      - paramilitary forces
      - petrochemical industries
      - POW camps
      - BDA for deep missile strikes
      - UAV units that are not at airfields
      - certain EW units (such as radar satellite jammers)
      - lots of rear area support units (MI, workshops etc.)
      - recovery of pilots
      - infiltration/exfiltration of LRRP
      - reconnaissance/surveillance and reporting
      and above all; a huge diversion effect

    11. Lets look at Finland: population density measly 18 per sq km and 83% of population lives in urban areas. It is very easy to hide in here and the same applies to areas in Russia that border Finland. Low force density scenario very much applies to Finland since we have possible a 1000+km wide front where the enemy might attack and some 170K strong army. Questimations about amount of infantry battalion battlegroups during wartime could be around 20 (meaning 50km frontage), 2+2 motorized/mechanised panzerjaeger battalion battlegroups, 2 brigades (one with 6x6 and 8x8, the other CV90 and Leo2A6) that would be used along the entire "front" and in depth. Luckily we have probably Europes best artillery. https://www.google.fi/amp/s/corporalfrisk.com/2017/01/19/the-best-artillery-in-europe/amp/

    12. S.O:

      The density of the civilan population in eastern europe is much lower, of cause, but the infrastructure is much worse and a great part of the terrain is very difficult to cross for 6x6 wheeled AFV Raiders. Moreover there are many reserve military tropps, paramilitary and security forces of the interior ministery and the police forces have partly military capabilities. On the opposite site there are much fewer bridges, much fewer roads and swamps and over very difficult terrain and the civilian populiation concentrates exactly there your raiders must go because of terrain and infrastructure. With mines, ieds, artillery and reserve/local/paramilitary forces available even deep in the enemy territory such raiders would be discovered very easily and would have big problems to fight their way against the named opfor because there movement is restrictet through the terrain to some strictures which are forseeable and therefore easily to defend.

      The diversion effect would be very good, no discussion about that, but it would be payed with high losses amongst the raiders.

      In a war in eastern europe the West (TM) would not have full air superiority in the first days of such a war. Any raiding company would therefore be in high danger from air attack regardless of their own 75mm mulit-purpose shorad and their longer range support platoon air defence. This air defence would not be sufficient. Some simple spotters (uavs, local forces, light recce-tanks, light infantry, russian special forces and so on) and russian artillery would be sufficient to anhiliate such a raiding company within seconds. In the eastern ukraine complete bataillons were anhiliated in this way within minutes.

      My problem with your concept is mostly that the fighting power of companies would not be sufficient, that swarming will not work because of terrain and the strictures the terrain impose in eastern europe, the lack of sufficient infrastructure in most parts of the country and the relativly high troop density even deep in enemy territory. For example russia has around 2 million reserve, and around 600 000 paramilitary forces that will add to the standing army of around 845 000 man.

      To think you can handle such an mass with swarming companies is at least very optimistic. I am sure that such an unconventional attack would be a very good diversion, but a near suicial mission for the raiders. Because the stricture of the terrain and the mass of russian troops would result in a very diffferent picture of troop density in comparison that what you anticipate.

      Because you named Belarus: there are thousands of rivers in belarus, around 11 000 lakes, and great parts of the country are swamps and marshy lands which are impassable for your raiders and over 40% of the country are covered by forests. Mines, ieds, artillery fire and so on will restrict your lanes of moevement further. And in the available rest of the terrain which you can use the troop density would not low enough. The belarusian army is very skilled and has a high fighting power although their equipment is old, belarus for its own could muster around 300 000 troops. Even to fight this troops down in the swampy country is extremly difficult and raiders would suffer enourmos losses because of their lack of enough fighting power and because the are not elusive enough in such a terrain and cannot stand off the enemy.

    13. 6x6 AFVs are often amphibious, btw.

      "IEDs" are irrelevant in such scenarios and mines cannot be laid in an entire country. There are way too few of them.
      Civilians wouldn't see shit during nightly raids, and hiding in the countryside is easy.

      Restricted lanes of movement offer delaying and ambush opportunities and are thus a huge problem for whatever hunting parties there are.

      To tie down paramilitary and reservist forces (diversion) is essential for preventing full occupation control of invaded areas.

      "In the eastern ukraine complete bataillons were anhiliated in this way within minutes."

      That was a hoax.

      Overall, I think you don't quite pay attention tot he setting. German armoured recce had 25% attrition during 6 weeks of Western campaign in 1940. About 25% attrition (not all KIA) is also what I expect to happen to one or two raider regiments in a Russia-NATO conflict, and that's OK.
      It's OK because armoured recce and certain other service components are about exposing few men to great risks in order to reduce the risks for most military personnel. In the end, you end up being more successful and bleed less.

      We're still far from all-robotic armies, and short of that any conflict between NATO and Russia would be very bloody (10,000+ KIA for NATO).
      Moreover, Russia is not prepared to deal with the raider concept. They lack the equipment to deal with it, the force structure, the war plans - raiders would add a great deal of uncertainty and deterrence.

      Finally, one wouldn't even need to employ a single raider company as such. The Russians would still need to prepare specifically against this OPFOR doctrine. Raiders could also be employed as skirmishers, as mechanised reinforcements for light infantry battalions, as piecemeal scout/observation and ShoRAD reinforcmeents to heavier mechanised forces or as counter-recce assets and hunting parties against small or reduced elements in our "rear area".

    14. S.O.

      6x6 wheeled, a fuel capacity sufficient for 1000 km ++ reach, a 75mm machine-cannon with sufficient ammunition and some atgm and amphibious would mean forceful a vey insufficient armour which could be penetrated even by old light infantry anti-tank or even by heavy machine guns. btw an amphibious capability would not enable you to cross the swamps, the marshy lands there.

      And mines must not be scattered all around the country but only to specific strictures of the terrain there which your raiders must use. And i wonder very much about your firm conviction that civilian IISR would be irrelevant because civilians would not see at night ? First: The civilians would flee exactly to that places their your raiders would hide and discover them there, and Second: as i lived in eastern europe for quite a time a can gurantee you personaly that you can see there at night a vehicle passing identify it.

      But finally i can agree you, that i really did not payed attention to the setting. Funnily i thought that such a doctrine would lead to at least around 30 % losses and now you wrote for yourselfe of around 25 %.

      But i have to ask, if such high losses can be beared by our Western TM societies and militaries today ? Do we have the culture and the psychological abilities to fight in such a expensive way ? Do we have the soldiers to dare such a way of fighting ? Can the necessary equipment be bought in sufficient time ? Your wrote yourself, that no such vehicle exists actually and to build one would need years. Until such a force and fighting style is implemented the robotic warfare and especialy the uav/ucav technology would become much more developed and potent.

      Overall finally i like the concept very much, but for different reasons: such troops would also excell in third world "colonial" wars and coin especially in northern africa which i regard as a main battle place for the next decades (of cause this is against your politcial agenda).

      PS: Why restrict such an force to only one or two regiments ? Why not 4 such regiments which would enable you to rotate them for expenditonary warfare (yes i know) ? Why not two brigades of such forces with 2 regiments each plus other assets which would made them even more flexible and usable in even more scenarios ? And if you want to use them in your way, you can easily send the indipendent regiment for its own and the artillery and so on can then assisst other units ?

      PPS: IMO the only actual vehicle which would deliver all capabilities that you demand is the Terrex of STK. It is fully amphibious, can carry troops (LRRPs), has at least 800 km reach (one can easily ad an interior add on tank for 1000 km ++) and is designed to wear a turret with a cannon up to 105mm because off a modular top deck. And it has a track over wheels ability which improves the cross country ability enourmesly because it transforms the Terrex i a halftrack. IMO the Terrex could be very easily be transformed to such a Raiding-Tank. And because of the Australian Land 400 programm (in which the Terrex anticipated) a very good sensor phalanx is available from the spot. And the armour could be sufficient and the vehicle fits even in a C-130. What do you think about the Terrex as such an Raiding-Tank ?

  5. The French use their vehicles in a mix.
    Leclerc/AMX10rc/ERC/Jaguar platoons always has a VBL on a 1:1 scale as Chasers.
    They provide foot scouts and extra Security.

    They have a fire team structure of 6 soldiers in all cavalry units. On foot they then have a perfect size for observation over time and leaping patrols.
    If they use heavier set ups like Leclerc, then the VBL stay back and only shows up for delivering extra help in basing areas+ foot reconnaissance

  6. I have thought a litte about an more detailled TOE for your doctrine than Regiment - Companies - Platoons/ Supporting Platoon. And wargamed it with some friends with very mixed results.

    In general i use the term ...-Group instead of Regiment, but mean an combined arms formation in ca. regiment size.

    First the Raiders:

    You said you would combine two companies of them for an mission. After some thoughts about this i think one cane even spare one company hq here and always combine raiding platoons of two companies in a very small bataillon. This would also enhance to include the necessary supporting platoons. The platoon and not the company would be the most important level for the raiders and so sparing company hqs would be an advantage imo.

    I would include some 120mm mortars for smoke, ir illumination and fire against enemy infantry / and anti-tank and also an rocket company with the dual purpose of air-defence and anti-tank/light rocket artillery.

    This would give such an group an tremendous firepower for its size, indirect / nlos at capacity which is very necessary in my opinion, a strong air defence and and extraordinary flexiblity regarding to different missions.

    TOE as follows:

    Raiding-Group (around 1200 soldiers)

    1 C4ISR Company (100) (with ecm/eccm platoon), 1 light pioneer company (100), 1 mortar-company (120mm, STRIX for anti-tank) (100), 1 rocket-company (Multi Mission Launcher) (100), 4 Raiding-Bataillons (each 200), divided directly into platoons, supporting platoons)

    For equipment: the main raiding tank would be the TERREX with the sensor et al of the australian LAND-400 offer and with a 76mm machine-cannon, and with the track-over-wheels concept for use as an halftrack. Many other variants of the TERREX were used in the other companies, for example for the mortars etc. The mortar-company is also equipped with STRIX ammunition to improve the AT capacity. The rocket-company would use the Multi-Mission-Launcher.

    Second the Skirmishers:

    Because they are more combat oriented and use a tracked tank around 40 tons i would give them a more conventional structure and would include more mortars and more support elements. And it should have around 8 companies as you said to encircle an enemy fighting unit with 4 to 8 companies so that an Skirmisher Group could handle such an task.

    TOE as follows:

    Skirmisher-Group (around 1500 soldiers)

    1 Panzer-Späh-Gruppe (1500)

    1 C4ISR-Company (100)(with ecm/eccm platoon), 1 Support-Company (100), 1 light-Pioneer-Company (100), 1 Rocket-Company with Multi-Mission-Launcher (100), 2 Skirmisher-Bataillons (each 550 soldiers)

    Skirmisher Bataillon:

    1 C4ISR-Company (50), 1 Mortar-Company (120mm, STRIX), 4 Skirmisher-Companies (each 100 soldiers)

    For equipment: apart from the named multi-mission-launcher the support vehicle should be the Bronco 3 from Singapur which would deliver your demands for an tracked around 20 tons amphibious support tank. This vehicle would be used by C4ISR, mortar, pioneer and support elements.

    As a tank i would use an variant of the korean K-21 with an 76mm cannon in an different turret. This tank is amphibious, has good armour, and has proven that it can be equipped with other turrets with stronger caliber guns (there are prototypes with 105mm and even 120mm guns in a cockeril-turret). The turret should be very easily the same as in the raiding units so both the terrex and the k-21 would use here then the same turret, the same gun and the same ammonition. Because the K-21 has more interior place, one could also transport then LRRPS or some Ranger-Infantry with it.

    I would be very thankful for commments or ideas about this TOE and equipment.

    1. My original idea included a rifled 120 mm mortar especially for SMK fires in the HQ/support platoons as well, but its range would be too small for dispersed ops. I moved towards a single 105 mm gun for quadrupled area coverage.

      The two different companies with one HQ/support platoon each make sense once you keep in mind
      - increased coverage or support that is effective within a radius
      - new ad hoc pairings of companies for ad hoc battalions
      - redundancy of HQ/support services is important because of attrition
      - day/night shift division of labour in the HQ function

      Generally I think my hypothetical doctrine is far enough away from conventional doctrines that it cannot be wargamed with existing wargame rules really.

    2. IMO the platoon and not the company would be the most important level for raiders because even companies would be to big for this (swarming) concept. So you need imo not two company hq because simple the platoon hqs would make the main work and would have to work together. The very small Bataillon would consist directly from platoons and all what you added here can be achieved by combining platoon hqs together. All that you said what be on the platoon level:

      - increased coverage or support that is effective within a radius
      - new ad hoc pairings of platoons for ad hoc battalions
      - redundancy of HQ/support services is important because of attrition
      - day/night shift division of labour in the HQ function

      As swarming is claimed to be the concept of the many, the fast and the mobile, and that is exactly the concept of the raiders as i understand it many indipendent plattons within a bataillon would be advantougous instead of an company level because companies to big, not mobile enough and this would result in fewer subunits which act.

      For the 105mm gun: what kind of system would you use here?

      IMO 120mm mortars would have the advantage of higher angles of fire (defilade), of a higher rof, that they can be even dismounted (depending on the system) and carry more explosives in comparison and especially in the context of raiding one can more easily use guided ammunition with them and guided AT-ammunition is available at the spot.

      And if you have more mortars (two companies instead of the splintered ones in the support platoons) you can bring them far forward and can use them in relativly close distance to the raiders so there is no need for longer area coverage.

    3. Howitzers can shoot at up to 70°, and the minimum range is pretty good with trajectory-correcting munitions, but more importantly 105 mm guns have much better range than 120 mm mortars and the ammunitions arrive much quicker.

      The 105 mm SPH would use the same 6x6 base vehicle as the rest of the company, so that would be the limiter. T7 would likely be too much, so it would be an ordinary 18-19 km howitzer.

      The scout platoons that I think of would have three 6x6 with 76 mm rapid fire gun + one 6x6 APC. The APC would be the main departure from established armoured recce doctrines, and the dismounts would be essential for boosting endurance well beyond four days. They would serve as security pickets in daytime and during mobile ops they would go into buildings, interrogate, search documents/seize computers, plant demolition charges etc.

      Conventional armoured recce has teams of 2-3 AFVs of which one probes ahead while the other(s) provide overwatch - then leap frog forward. The lead vehicles uses smoke and reverse gear if problems arise. The 3rd AFV keeps the leap frogging possible after one AFV was lost, so scout teams of 3 AFVs are more robust and reliable than teams of 2.

      There is neither in conventional nor in my scout platoon any HQ, nor much support (hardly any EW, no indirect SMK fires, no medical specialists). Their support capability would be
      - indirect 76 mm HE fires
      - ability to test captured fuels if they are usable
      - infrasound and infrared scan air search
      - intelligence gathering
      - rarely radio relay service
      Other than that it would be mostly combat, security or scouting efforts.

      Now with those platoons it's obvious that some capability for deploying smoke over long distances would be desirable, and I think this belongs to a single gun per support platoon which other than that has only self defence munitions.

      Remotely-laid smoke may enable a platoon to race across an open field, which would not be possible with its own smoke munitions (and the scout AFVs could hardly carry 76 mm SMK rounds in addition to enough HE and AT rounds). This ability may give a critical freedom of movement to escape troubles.

  7. Today modern mortar rounds reach up to 16 km like the PERM of the USMC and there is even an guided round (SAL) of PERM which will be produced by Ratheon 2018 in series. Why use an Howitzer with 18 km range if you can have an 16 km range mortar which delivers more explosives / effects ? PERM has even 3 times more lethal area than an conventional 120mm mortar round. And it can hit moving targets and because of top attack it is much more AT-Capabilties.

    Also 120mm mortar smoke is in my knowledge more effective than 105 mm smoke.

    But i realy can agree with everything else in this concept very much, moreover because of its "Dual-Purpose" and Flexibility which is imo the most important design feature for future forces, to be redundandt and with an maximal flexibility.

    1. EXOTIC 120 mm mortar rounds go to about 15 km range, EXOTIC 105 mm rounds go to about 30 km.
      NORMAL 120 mm mortar rounds go to about 9 km, NORMAL 105 mm rounds go to about 17 km.

      Unguided mortar bombs have a horrible dispersion at 7 km already. Mere trajectory correction by airbrake doesn't suffice out to 15 km, and really guided mortar rounds are still expensive and will remain uneconomical for SMK shells for a long time to come. Development projects in this sector are often cancelled and the successful ones are terribly slow.

      105 mm is spin stabilised, and save for the French one 120 mm mortars use fin stabilisation. This largely rules out the efficient base ejection mode for 120 mm smoke bombs.

      Besides, 105 mm shells and 120 mm mortar bombs are largely equivalents in effect.

    2. But you talked about a conventional howitzer and said a T-7 would be to much and wrote for yourself about an ordinary 17 - 18 km howitzer.

      And PERM is not an exotic ammunition, it will be available from 2018 on in great quantities. And the lethal effects area of PERM would be greater than that of an conventional 105mm. The disperion is also very small in comparison. And i mentioned several other advantages like using the mortar even dismounted and so on.

      But let me ask a different question: why use an 105mm howitzer at all ? because today there is a vulcano ammunition for 76mm calibre available which has 30 km plus range for conventional ammo and there is even a version with 40 km plus range.

      Perhaps one could use an 76mm SPG instead of an 105mm. The advantages would be obvious (same caliber as the raiding tanks, interchangable ammunition and so on). The 76mm SPG would then carry the SMK ammo and the effects area of one shot would be smaller of cause in comparison to an 105mm but: because you can then shoot many shots much faster the added effects area would be even better, the effects would be more precise and controllable and one could perhaps even beat hardkill better with this and the SPG would have more shots in it with the same weight in comparison to an 105 mm.

    3. Vulcano is too expensive for SMK. Same is true for PERM (18,000 $/copy).

      I understand the point about 76 mm SPG, but that would only lead to all scout vehicles having some SMK in between HE and AT rounds. I may think about that, but the result would be a dangerously small qty of HE rounds in the 6x6 AFVs AND they would be compelled to shoot (=compromise their hideout) when another platoon is in trouble. In my concept the support Plt would be in a much less exposed hideout than the scout platoons (which would observe roads etc. in daytime).

  8. One type of maneuver that low force density enabled but has rarely been discussed is infiltration. Russians are known to use it (atleast it's been taught to me) but couldn't find anything like it in the american field manuals nor finnish. I'm not talking about special forces sort of infiltration but maneuvering company-battalion without contact into a area of interest as a supporting maneuver for larger attack. Seizing key locations in depth under stealth. This topic could be a blog post on its own.

    1. This is an result of the deep operations doctrine of the russian forces and mainly the part of the VDV (airborne forces) which in theory would close the gap in space between the special forces and the conventional forces by air-drop but also by infiltration of small combat groups deep into enemy territory so that there is coherent line from agents/secret services activities to special forces to infiltration forces to greater VDV forces to mechanised forces as a breakthrough force to mechanised and infantry forces as an holding force.

      For the same reason i think deep infiltration into russian territory would not work so well because such very fast units (especilly the VDV) could be used very good for counter-attacking such raiders (similiar to the thought use of german fallschirmjäger in the cold war era as an firefighter unit).