The U.S. Army Operating Concept (AOC): Win in a Complex World Now Posted

The United States (U.S.) Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Pamphlet (TP) 525-3-1, The U.S. Army Operating Concept (AOC): Win in a Complex World, describes how future Army forces, as part of joint, interorganizational, and multinational efforts, operate to accomplish campaign objectives and protect U.S. national interests. It describes the Army's contribution to globally integrated operations, which is the central idea of the Capstone Concept for Joint Operations: Joint Force 2020. The AOC recognizes the need for Army forces to provide foundational capabilities required by the Joint Force and to project power onto land and from land across the air, maritime, space, and cyberspace domains. The AOC is grounded in a vision of future armed conflict that considers national defense strategy; missions; emerging operational environments; advances in technology; and anticipated enemy, threat, and adversary capabilities. Ultimately, the AOC guides future force development through the identification of first order capabilities that the Army must possess to accomplish missions in support of policy goals and objectives.

Bolded emphasis Small Wars Journal’s to highlight the purpose and scope of this TRADOC Pamphlet.

Full Document Link: The U.S. Army Operating Concept (AOC): Win in a Complex World

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Having, in my reply to comment below, defined:

a. What "winning" looks like in the 21st Century. To wit: the increase of western power, influence and control throughout the world; this, by causing outlying states and societies to organize, orient and order themselves more along modern western political, economic and social lines. And having defined:

b. Who, within this context, our "natural" 21st Century enemies are/will be, to wit: such nations as China, Russia and Iran -- and other state and non-state actors -- who, together or separately, seek to prevent, contain and indeed roll-back western power, influence and control within their regions. This, by appealing to and working with the conservative elements within their own and within other states and socieities.

Now I suggest:

We are able -- and specifically within this context -- to discuss what the role of the U.S. military (and indeed the role of our other elements of national power) might be:

1. As these relate to our such goals and objectives and

2. In the face of the resistance -- to our achievement of such goals and objectives -- that are/will be offered by our now-clearly identified enemies.

So let me test this thesis somewhat by asking my fellow readers whether one might, as the "New Army Operating Concept" suggests, "win" -- in the not-so-complex world that I have identified above -- without fighting?

I think the obvious answer here is "yes."

This, if we are able to convince, coerce and/or compel the transformation of other states and societies -- more along modern western political, economic and social lines -- via ways, means and methods other than war.


I think "winning" in a "complex world" is a little bit of an issue. If one embraces "complexity"- then winning is sort of... well, complex. Instead, I'd advocate us simplifying- even artificially- "the complex" into something simple, getting after the simple objectives, declaring victory and then moving on- selling the simple narrative.

Selling the simple narrative to most populaces is very easy- we are, for the most part, linear thinkers who like our logics tightly coupled and easy to digest.

If, instead, we continue down the present path we will both never win and never appreciate complexity. "Winning" today means taking on the 3-24 recipe for everything: legitimate security forces, economic development, and good governance. Not only does our doctrine (FID, UW, COIN, stability ops, IW, etc.) say that it is possible to stabilize the world by doing these thing- it asserts that the military can largely do it. We can no longer just conduct warfare- we have to conduct "other" warfare (Special Warfare, Irregular Warfare, etc.- but it isn't really warfare- it is Western-modeled social change, i.e.: nation-building).

Complexity talks about things like "emergence"- and that concept, among others, is anathema both to our governmental systems and process AND our culture. Unfortunately, to "solve" things like "bad government", illegitimate security forces, and lack of economic development- one has to largely address those problems over time and through emergent solutions. So- we have a choice- either change our culture, political system, and military fundamentally (which I don't think is feasible) or accept that when we deploy our military we really need to simplify the mission to a clear and military objective, declare victory when the objective is reached and largely withdraw, and then sell the narrative that we won. Anything else is disingenuous and will not "win"... (and will cost a ton of $)

During the Cold War, it was the Soviet Union who was on the march and the West that sought to "contain" it. At that time, "winning" (in the eyes of the West) was determined by whether our actions (military, diplomatic, economic, etc.) helped to thwart the expansion of Soviet/communist ideas and examples and, thereby, helped to thwart the expansion of Soviet power, influence and control throughout the world.

Post-the Cold War, it has been the United States/the West who has been on the march and it has been such nations as China, Russia and Iran who have been working to "contain" us. Herein, "winning," I suggest, being determined by whether our actions (military, diplomatic, economic, etc.) helped to (1) overcome such resistance and (2) facilitate the expansion of, in this case, western ideas and western examples. (Thereby, facilitating the expansion of Western power, influence and control throughout the world.)

It is this role reversal (aggressor rather than defender), I suggest, that we have been having such great difficulty with.

During the Cold War, we had the easier role. This, because we might be looked upon as the defender of traditional ways of life, etc. In this role, being able to call upon, as "natural" allies, the conservative elements of these populations.

Now Russia, China and Iran would seem to have the easier job. This, because they can now call themselves the defender of traditional ways of life, etc. and, like the West during the Cold War, call upon these self-same conservative elements to help contain the West.

So, our job: To do with our way of life, our way of governance and our elements of national power what the Soviets were not able to do with their such attributes (or burdens).

Thus, to transform these states and societies, in this case more along modern western political, economic and social lines, in the face of (1) similar resistance coming from (2) similar conservative populations and opposed nation-state groups; none of whom appear to be adequately inspired by our (or the Soviet's) ideas or examples.

GEN David Perkins, new TRADOC commander, at World Affairs Council presentation televised by C-SPAN, explains "Unified Land Operations -- Win in a Complex World" concepts.

Herein, comparing/constrasting with old Air-Land Battle.

The year is 2021 and North Korea is falling apart after a group of generals failed to turn the country around after they overthrew of Kim Jung Un in 2014. The ruling DPRK generals tried negotiating reunification with South Korea which did not sit well with China that subsequently invaded the DPRK. Some DPRK generals and subordinate forces chose to side with the Chinese while others and their commands pledged allegiance to South Korea. This prompted our coalition to cross the DMZ with local DPRK leader permission to advance toward “bad” North Korean and northern Chinese forces that were heading south. This was the last vestige Cold War battle long-feared but well-trained for using recent embedded training in new IFVs, M1A2s, JLTVs, mobile and PC-based simulators, and live-virtual-constructive training and modeling integration. Such tools had become an integral part of the Captains Career Course, CGSC, and the War Colleges as well.

Stryker units transported from the U.S. West begin pouring into different smaller airfields of South and North Korea by C-130J from Japan where C-5s and C-17s had transported them. Of course ships were moving most forces, but the early deployment of some armor had to help. Larger aircraft also transported the fewer double V-hull Strykers to Korea since they were not nearly as light. South Korean and U.S. armored units already in Korea began advancing north struggling to move rapidly on poor DPRK roads with mines, obstacles, and ambushes. Most roads were unpaved and quite narrow traversing mountainous and wooded terrain with adjacent rice paddies off-road in the few flatter areas. Many of the Strykers and infantry BCT JLTVs followed the heavier armor and set up numerous COPs along the supply routes protecting logistics trucks and securing DPRK and South Korean cities and infrastructure while funneling aid to DPRK civilians and citizens of Seoul and other cities near the DMZ that had been bombarded by artillery.

Newly redesigned U.S. combined arms battalions arriving from the U.S. typically were task-organized with two infantry company teams with two infantry platoons and one armor platoon. Normally it would have been nearly impossible to air transport much heavy armor to Korea, however armor battalion reorganization with fewer tanks and a new IFV design made it easier moving prepositioned armor placed in Japan (where it also could support attacks on Taiwan and Japan) to Korea by C-130s and C-17s. A single armor team that had started out with five platoons and 17 M1A2 tanks (instead of 29 tanks in two earlier armor companies) retained three of its armor platoons and gained a single infantry platoon. This typically became the battalion advance guard along with engineer AVLBs and MICLIC launchers, and a 120mm mortar vehicle. Another remaining infantry platoon with the armor team XO’s tank escorted battalion logistics and mission command vehicles of the TOC and HHC, and a Paladin self-propelled 155mm platoon supporting the battalion. To reiterate:

Two Infantry Teams: Each with Two Infantry Platoons totaling 9 IFVs, and a task organized single Armor Platoon with 3 M1A2s. An organic PLS truck supporting each armor platoon would carry two 5,000 lb. UGVs with mounted sensors/machine guns/rocket launchers, and a mid-size quadcopter UAS on its 8’ x 20’ flatrack for long “traveling” road marches. Each IFV consisted of two separate major armored components. A 33,000 lb. rear armored compartment was mountable onto the 38,000 lb. armored IFV prime mover using the organic battalion PLS trucks. This allowed transport of both IFV heavy components on separate C-130s. Both components also could be air-dropped separately. Once joined together using the PLS truck, the IFV would weigh some 71,000 lbs. before adding troops and full fuel and ammunition. Six or seven squad Soldiers including the vehicle crew would be carried in the forward part of the armored tracked IFV prime mover while the separate 33,000 lb. armored compartment carried on the rear unarmored “flat bed” (3+ feet off the ground for IED protection) could carry up to six squad troops in a single sitting row to retain a narrow armored compartment protecting against frontal/rear attacks, preventing a too front-heavy vehicle, and accommodating sliding add-on tile or other armor ala RDECOM/DARPA’s GVX.

One Armor Team: Three armor platoons each with 3 M1A2s and the commander’s tank added up to ten total. Three organic PLS supporting the team each would carry two 5,000 lb. UH-60 transportable UGVs and a mid-sized quadcopter. One infantry platoon with 4 IFVs, along with an AVLB, MCLIC launcher tank, and 120mm mortar vehicle rounded out the package and a battalion reconnaissance platoon led the way. The quadcopter provided not only sensor coverage but also CASEVAC of a single Soldier to link up as necessary with a medic in a ground or air ambulance in safer areas which reduced the number of armored ground ambulances required. The quadcopter also could provide autonomous aerial resupply via sling load and its small internal compartment for the wounded.

Six tank loaders in the two lead tank platoons were operating four unmanned ground vehicles and two mid-size quadcopters. The three other tank loaders in the trailing tank platoon with the infantry platoon in the middle were operating three more unmanned systems. Both UGVs maintained station autonomously ahead of the lead armor team and reconnaissance platoon using ground penetrating radar and towing a MICLIC trailer. Two quadcopters flew along the most dangerous flank and to the front of the route while the trailing tank platoon flew its quadcopter along the other flank and rear. Two out of three loaders in each tank platoon monitored the autonomously-panning stabilized machine gun and rocket launcher linked to an UGV EO/IR sensor. The third loader in each tank platoon monitored the quadcopter UAS EO/IR sensor and picked waypoints on a digital map for it to orbit above at 1000’ along a chosen racetrack pattern azimuth. The three quadcopters also relayed the video and command data links of both its own sensor and the six UGV EO/IR sensors to maintain electronic line of sight.

Suddenly, a non-cooperating DPRK ambush erupted and the UGV acoustic and IR sensors detected the location of closest RPG and small arms fire in adjacent woodlines and slopes and slewed the UGV turret there. Simultaneously, the UGV data link notified the closest quadcopter of the same location for it to slew its sensor there. Once tank loaders noted no civilian presence they pressed an engage button causing the UGVs to begin spraying suppressive rounds near threat firing locations. The quadcopter flew overhead along the flanks and front and could see through the trees and on opposite sides of slopes where the DPRK troops were now fleeing.

The company commander told the FSO to take control of the UAS video and she filled in the blanks of a preformatted call for fire that automatically inserted the grid coordinate of what the FSO focused the camera on. This text message was fed to the mortar vehicle supporting the team and 120mm airburst rounds began impacting a minute later above fleeing DPRK elements. The FSO also used the quadcopter to fire its sensor-linked grenade launcher onto another fleeing DPRK group closer to a town. Meanwhile, unfriendly DPRK artillery units began pummeling the friendly route. A high-powered laser on one IFV detected and destroyed rounds deemed dangerous (as well as low-flying UAS) and MLRS returned counterbattery fire.

The combined arms battalion continued moving until scouts and one of the leading UGVs reported the presence of persistent chemical contamination that apparently was fired at the same time as the HE. A quick look at the map told the commander that another route was available at a fork in the route. The commander requested that his tank gunner run his UGV down that alternate route that subsequently confirmed no chemical presence. One downwind chemical casualty scout was evacuated by the quadcopter when he failed to mask in time. He linked up with a MEDEVAC aircraft at a safe LZ for en route care heading to a more distant aid station near the DMZ.

Abrams tank rounds easily handled DPRK T-62 and T-72 variants while Chinese armor and the PLA and DPRK proved to be untested in combat with inadequate training, sensors, and armor penetration. The 30mm rounds of our IFVs cued by unmanned systems and their own sensors also proved devastating to the PLA and threat DPRK. Our 14.5mm protected 71,000 lb. IFVs used their sliding armor tiles against threat RPGs and HEAT rounds and active protection against the few accurate SABOT rounds. Blue Force Tracker and in-vehicle and TOC imagery of UGV and quadcopter sensor detections as well as AH-64E and MQ-1D sensors assisted situational understanding of friendly and enemy locations.

Stationary institutional USAF Reachback intelligence DGS, and more mobile and forward DCGS-A automated fusion of multiple intelligence sources fed combined arms battalion and BCT common operational pictures with relevant information from a lot more than just Palantir--just one of many intel sources used by trained joint MI operators. Like so many complex digital systems, DCGS-A finally had been simplified and made more trouble-free and user-friendly which was no easy feat given the number of capabilities to be integrated. Operator training had improved along with leader ability to interpret and mentally-process so much information. WIN-T helped dissemination of mission command and information collection as did MQ-1D communications relay.

The combined arms battalion commander was pleased at the operation’s progress and that Joint F-35s had made quick work of bad DPRK ancient jets, older radar air defenses, and flew above AAA. They steadily were eliminating more modern but non-stealthy Chinese aircraft as well. The few J-20s and J-31s built to date had become F-22 fodder. There had been attempts to close South Korean and Japanese airfields with short and mid-range conventional PLA missiles but Patriots, THAAD, and Naval standard missiles had taken out most and USAF and Korean repair teams had rapidly repaired runways. Meanwhile other F-35s launching from dispersed locations in Japan, Marine F-35Bs launching from roads in South Korea, and Naval F-35Cs continued to support our coalition advance.

From one of the road sites in southern South Korea where Marine F-35Bs were launching, Army MQ-1D Gray Eagles also were launching using rocket-assist which had been added in 2019 (completely notional as is all this) to shorten take-off distance in response to potentially vulnerable airfields. Automated launch and recovery was not a problem on roads using existing GPS and other automated systems. Also added in 2019 were follow-ons to Stinger missiles to facilitate engagement of enemy rotorcraft and higher-flying threat UAS. Of course Hellfire missiles and its follow-on continued to be the primary weapon for ground attack of DPRK armor and AAA but laser-guided 2.75” rockets also fired on infantry dismounts and trucks. Pairs of AH-64E teamed with a single overhead MQ-1D providing direct support to lead combined arms battalions. In addition, the USAF had gotten serious and figured out how to put AIM-9X and AIM-120 missiles and radars on select MQ-9 Reapers and Global Hawks to take on enemy fast movers.

Army AH-64E and CH-47F had launched close combat attacks, interdiction, and air assaults into some areas to the north that constituted good Infantry complex terrain to include cities to hold off Chinese forces. Chinooks externally transported JLTVs while MH-47s, S-97 Raiders procured to replace AH-6 little birds, and CV-22s/MV-22s moved SF and SOF. MH-60s externally transported new Polaris DAGOR ATVs by sling load to the north as well, often over the ocean to avoid AAA threats, for a variety of night raids seizing high value targets. The S-97 Raider was proof of principle for some newly developed Future Vertical Lift (FVL) candidates while the V-22 variants represented other such FVL prototypes. USAF Reapers provided other SOF and conventional targets for Navy cruise missiles and Army ATACMs as well as F-35 and F-22 air interdiction and B-1B and B-2 strikes. EA-18G and F/A-18 teamed with Raptors covered South Korea in the event a Chinese fighter approached from over the sea. The vaunted DF-21D had proven far ineffective in finding any stand-off carrier after B-2s and F-22s coupled with other stand-off munitions took out the PLA over-the-horizon radars and other effects destroyed PLA satellites.

Many of our own satellites also had quickly been destroyed. Chinese jamming and cyber attacks soon were engaged by laser-guided F-35 munitions. Chinese ships were sunk by our subs and stealth aircraft that also destroyed PLA and threat DPRK air defenses. No attempt was made at deep air penetration into China as that could have provoked a nuclear response. Aerial refueling easily had handled carrier jets launching from further out until the threat was reduced. Japan also had proven to be an unsinkable “carrier” just as the Philippines also was for Taiwan were the Chinese to think of making it a two-front war.

With the presence of such overwhelming air superiority, the number of Long Range-Strike Bombers, at $700 million each, had been greatly reduced to buy more nuclear-capable replacement subs as there was little reason to deeply penetrate either China or Russia and fewer LRS-B easily would support any other threat along with our fighter fleet. Air supremacy meant that Reapers, Global Hawks, Tritons, and Gray Eagles quickly were able to provide all-domain support with minimal fear of being downed. The lower cost of these systems also meant they were somewhat expendable anyway. A cheaper version of UCLASS had also been chosen rather than spending excessively on penetrating capability that also could be escalatory and risk loss of key technologies if downed. That also freed more money for nuclear-capable subs. After all, the majority of UCLASS missions would be flown over open water and well offshore in peacetime so why spend excessively on a shorter-endurance, exquisite UCLASS that cost too much per hour to operate when F-35C could penetrate as needed and influence near shorelines where it counted.

Faced with overwhelming Joint Combined Arms Maneuver to include air interdiction, Marine MV-22 and air-cushioned vehicle assisted assaults in friendlier DPRK areas supported by amphibious ships, SEALs, cruise missiles, Littoral Combat Ship/DD-1000/Small Surface Combatants fires, and Joint High Speed Vessels. Our South Korean and other allies were equally impressive and scores of DPRK troops surrendered to them while cooperating DPRK leaders helped secure towns that coalition troops bypassed. This caused the enemy DPRK Generals and their forces to capitulate or face destruction. The Chinese agreed to a new border to maintain a buffer between the new unified Korea and China to include keeping all U.S. forces south of the original DMZ for stability operations against threat DPRK guerillas while ROK Soldiers conducted long-term stability operations in the former North Korea.