Small Wars Journal

Exchanging Hats to Fix the Military Part 2: Artillery Army

Wed, 09/11/2019 - 12:08am

Exchanging Hats to Fix the Military Part 2: Artillery Army

Michael Gladius

Artillery Army: The Future of Conventional Warfare

Artillery is the King of Battle,[i] and this is especially true in conventional warfare. Unlike in counterinsurgency, which is comprised primarily of soft targets, conventional warfare features armored targets which can take damage as well as inflict it, and in far greater numbers than a guerrilla force could ever hope to muster. For an army that plans to fight outnumbered against a conventional enemy with technological parity, artillery will play a central role in our doctrine. Most of the risk to America’s forces from peer opponents today comes in the form of massed barrages (which have become even deadlier than their Cold-War counterparts due to cluster munitions, Electronic and Cyber Warfare, and improvements in anti-weaponry platforms. We seek a qualitative advantage in our own weaponry, but must not forget that quality is only useful in conventional warfare if it can be scaled up (as has happened with programs like the F-35. The Artillery Army is built around these premises).

Artillery’s greatest strengths lie in its range, ability to destroy both hard and soft targets, ability to destroy ships, aircraft, and fortifications, and ability to destroy large swaths of enemies. Artillery can’t be spoofed by Electronic Warfare like drones can and can limit an enemy’s ability to maneuver as long as its fire can be sustained (which is far longer than most aircraft loiter times). Its traditional lack of mobility can be overcome through self-propelled variants, and complete mechanization of all artillery would make them the perfect indirect-fire complement to the direct-fire guns of tanks and APCs. Artillery has fewer anti-weapon counters compared to other platforms, and in fact most anti-weapon platforms are forms of artillery themselves. Using artillery as the basis of organizing America’s Army (ideally combined with assigning the Marines to counterinsurgency) will solidify our traditional advantages and strengthen our secondary advantages. It is the natural end-state of Multi-Domain Operations.

The Trinity of Doctrines

In order to see how the Artillery Army fits into Multidomain Operations, we must look at its doctrinal and organizational logic. Firstly, the doctrinal: Western culture and mindset is based on trinities, and doctrine contains three components. The first component involves the differences between firepower warfare, guerrilla/ranger warfare, and mobile warfare (a trinity within a trinity, no less!). The diagram below will illustrate.


Before proceeding, we must define our terms to avoid ambiguity. Firepower warfare focuses on maximizing damage per capita, and then scaling up to achieve critical mass. The old French slogan “the Artillery Conquers, the Infantry Occupies” is only half of the equation. The other half is found in S.L.A. Marshall’s “Men against Fire:” [ii]

‘For the infantry soldier the great lesson of minor tactics in our time… is the overpowering effect of relatively small amounts of fire when delivered from the right ground at the right hour. The mass was there, somewhere in support, and mobility was needed to put the vital element in the right place. But the salient characteristic of most of our great victories (and a few of our defeats) was that they pivoted on the fire action of a few men.’

True Firepower Warfare permeates all levels: tactical, operational, and strategic. When properly done, it ensures that all units punch above their weight, no matter how small. This is critical for dispersed formations to avoid isolation and/or destruction in detail. Firepower Warfare is imperative in siege-battles and urban combat,[iii] as fortifications act as a force-multiplier, even for poorly-trained/equipped opponents. Against a numerically superior force, firepower kills and suppresses, limiting an enemy’s ability to maneuver and systematically destroying his formations. Ineffective fire, therefore, inherently contradicts this doctrine.

Mobile Warfare focuses on speed and mobility as its primary weapon. This form of warfare prioritizes dislocation and encirclement of enemy forces in order to create chaos and make cohesive responses difficult, if not impossible. This approach, like Firepower Warfare, is ideal for armies that utilize mass; larger armies are inherently at risk of becoming sluggish or piecemeal, and dedicating their focus on mobility counteracts this. Mobile Warfare’s gold standard for tactics and operations is Encirclement:


Defensive “Kesselschlacht” Encirclement

Encirclement is useful on the offense and defense but is not infallible. The main drawback directly correlates to issues of scale: larger forces are harder to encircle, and difficult or vast terrain can thwart a perfect encirclement. Encircling a battalion requires a slight numerical superiority, but encircling a division or Corps requires significantly greater force ratios. In dense terrain such as mountains and jungles, a battalion can disperse and exfiltrate through small gaps in the enemy’s line, as happened in Vietnam and Afghanistan. If a Corps is encircled and chooses not to surrender, then it normally possesses the means to attempt a breakout in coordination with neighboring friendly forces. The only way to prevent these is to have sufficient firepower to blunt the relief attempts, or sufficient depth; both are resource- and manpower-intensive tasks. The most successful form of mobile warfare is therefore not to be found in German Bewegungskrieg (war of movement) or AirLand Battle, but in Soviet Deep Battle Doctrine.

Guerrilla/Ranger Warfare is also a mobility-based form of warfare but is not the same as Mobile Warfare. Historically, these tactics were referred to as “guerrilla” when used defensively, and “ranger” when used offensively. This form of warfare is for the weaker side in a war, when at a numerical or technological disadvantage, and its greatest strengths are stealth and surprise. Although these tactics are not suitable for a sustained battle, they are suitable for a sustained operation or campaign. A smaller guerrilla/ranger force can tie down larger numbers of enemy troops by virtue of keeping their forces intact.

The mobility-based tactic of guerrillas and rangers is not encirclement, but hit-and-run slashing attacks:


Slashing attacks formed the basis of Operations in AirLand Battle Doctrine

When an army lacks sufficient manpower or resources to encircle and trap enemy armies, slashing attacks throughout his enemy’s strategic depths (both offensive and defensive) can inflict disproportionately high damage and slow the enemy’s tempo of attack. This is not “Blitzkrieg in Reverse,” but rather a mobile attrition strategy. Despite the popularity of the “Attrition vs Maneuver” dichotomy, guerrilla warfare embodies both, as shown below:


Attrition/annihilation form the second component of the trinity, while shock/maneuver form the third. Annihilation is the complement to attrition, as the former involves a rapid defeat while the latter bleeds an enemy to death over a longer period of time. Shifting back and forth between the two is not difficult, as there is no set time dimension which divides them. It is also possible to have an attrition strategy with annihilation tactics for this same reason. Attrition and annihilation are closely tied to strategy and geopolitical goals, as the decision to bleed an enemy is more defensive in nature while annihilation is evenly split between offense and defense. Nations who need time will often adopt an attrition model in order to build up their advantages, while nations who believe they have a limited window of opportunity will accept the risks associated with annihilation.

Shock, rather than attrition or firepower, is the complement to Maneuver, just how grappling complements pugilism in martial arts. This difference is more accurate than the “attrition is punching frontally, while maneuver is hitting from the side/back”[iv] distinction. Maneuver, like wrestling, focuses on making an opponent’s position untenable through rapidly cycling through OODA Loops. Shock, like boxing, focuses on destruction and knockout blows (and if the opponent isn’t knocked out, he’ll be stunned or disoriented, slowing his response).


Maneuver warfare is better described as a variable than a complete doctrine, since it is more flexible and universal while also being quantifiable. The problem with using it as a catchall phrase for a complete doctrine is that it implies (as many in the military reform movement do) that maneuver warfare doctrine has a monopoly on mobility or decentralized decision-making, and detaches it from any measurable standard other than success. This produces a dangerous mental catch-22, wherein anything that works is ‘maneuver warfare’ (even if the victory was not due to speed or maneuvers), while anything that fails is ‘attrition warfare’ (even if the decisions responsible for failure were consistent with a maneuver warfare approach).

Taken together, these three sets of independent variables provide a compelling matrix for defining doctrines. The American Army has historically, and should continue to, focus on the hybrid that allows optimal endurance: Firepower and Guerrilla/Ranger. Shifting between attrition/annihilation and shock/maneuver is easy by comparison, as they are heavily influenced by strategic goals and mindset, rather than resources. This blend allowed American forces throughout the 20th century to fight and win when outnumbered by more mobile opponents, and to continue fighting long after the enemy reached his own limits of endurance. Today, it would allow the army to fragment without shattering, as smaller units would be self-sufficient and capable of hammering an opponent throughout his strategic depths like a relentless swarm of horseflies. The mobility, stealth, and initiative of a guerrilla combined with the destructive power, range, and precision of modern weapons can blunt an enemy’s advance and forward-based forces could exhaust an opponent into Pyrrhic victories. Balancing firepower with infiltration would make encirclement less intimidating, and broaden the commander’s mind as well as his toolkit. The decentralization of guerrilla tactics would prevent decapitation strikes, and encourage initiative at all levels.

Another benefit to the Artillery Army is its usefulness to the Reserves and National Guard. By constructing self-sufficient small formations within each division, training can be focused on mastery of small-unit tactics during peacetime, and their schedule can more easily be staggered. More importantly, the National Guard and Reserves will develop a 3-dimensional ‘area effect’ mindset. National Guardsmen and Reservists can expect to be the first choice for defensive/area denial roles in a conventional war and will need to orient their training accordingly. Mandating that all Guardsmen train for nuclear strike response, reaction to massed barrages, and guerrilla/partisan tactics to contest large regions will go a long way in preserving readiness and flexibility. Instead of concentrated nodes which can be targeted by a precision strike, the Guard/Reserves will master the art of dispersion and redundancy. The ideal will be to emulate Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck’s East African Campaign, where 22,000 German colonial troops tied down 250,000+ Allied troops (mostly British) and prevented them from being used elsewhere.

An Army built around artillery would be ideally suited for conventional warfare. In Part 3, we will discuss the Navy and Marine Corps, and make the case that the Marines should be assigned the job of COIN, rather than having both Army and Marines trying to fight both styles simultaneously. For this essay, we will stick to four guiding principles for the Artillery Army:

  • Reconnaissance is the sea in which conventional forces swim
  • Airpower is another form of artillery strikes
  • Combined-Arms (including Cyber and EW) must be thoroughly present at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels
  • Warrant officers’ role will increase exponentially, and replace many commissioned officers’ roles

From these, we can see that the Artillery Army is not a one-trick pony. The US Army today already has many of these elements at the operational level, and this essay will discuss how to further integrate them into the tactical and strategic levels. Through experimentation, these principles can then be further developed to smooth out any wrinkles.

Reconnaissance is the Sea in which Conventional Forces Swim

Just as Mao said the populace is the sea in which the guerrilla swims, so too is reconnaissance for conventional forces (particularly those using guerrilla mobility). This is consistent with AirLand Battle doctrine’s hope that NATO could overwhelm the Soviets’ ability to process information, drowning useful data in a sea of outdated or irrelevant data. Information Technology (IT) in the cyberwarfare domain can process data quickly for analysts, but the raw material must still be extracted by recon teams and scanners. At the tactical level, this could mean incorporating a recon section of 7 men (3 sharpshooter-spotter buddy pairs, 1 radiodrone operator) into a standard mechanized infantry platoon. These sharpshooters would not be snipers per se but would provide accurate rifle fire as needed and their spotters could act as forward observers. The 3 pairs can be deployed together or attached to individual squads by the platoon leader (the radiodrone operator would then accompany the recon squad or platoon leader, respectively).

At the company level, company commanders should be assigned a Warrant Officer to serve in an S2 function, acting as a liaison between said company commanders and their superiors. Company commanders need to be able to act on their own initiative in battle, while also coordinating with neighboring units and supplying information up the chain of command. Adding a warrant officer specially trained in processing and relaying this information, combined with the recon squads in each mechanized infantry platoon, would remove much of the burden from the company commander’s shoulders, and this delegating would allow him to lead more effectively.

At the operational-strategic level, a mixture of mechanized scouts and dismounted scouts would be best at and above battalion level, in addition to introducing sniper platoons as the Marines currently have. Existing cavalry squadrons should remain mechanized for long-range reconnaissance on the plains and desert, while dismounted or heliborne LRS teams will provide useful information from behind enemy lines, or in terrain impassable to vehicles. Sniper platoons would provide an excellent third option for large formations (battalion and higher), and the sharpshooters in the squads could provide a pool of recruits for both these and the S2 Warrant officers. This would provide a career pipeline for skilled marksmen and scouts alike. Battalions should also possess sufficient intelligence personnel to operate without waiting for orders from above. The necessary assets today are at brigade level, but can be easily pushed down a level through the use of warrant officers.

Airpower as a Form of Artillery

This statement is highly controversial but is borne out by experience. Relentless bombing campaigns in history have achieved identical effects as prolonged artillery barrages.[v] Like Japan, Germany was firebombed into ash[vi] at the cost of hundreds of airmen, but this had the same effect on Germany’s ability to fight as the 800-day siege of Leningrad had on the USSR’s ability to fight. In both instances, it weakened, but did not kill, and the recipient of the barrage was able to recover after a period of time. Even Britain’s bombing of the dams on the Ruhr River, the most severe strikes, did not permanently cripple Germany’s industry. Likewise, bombing the Ho Chi Minh Trail with precision munitions proved to be equally as ineffective in stopping the southward flow of supplies and reinforcements as the artillery duels across the Laotian border.[vii] Dropping bombs, like firing artillery shells, does not involve occupation of an enemy territory, and thus has minimal strategic effects unless it is followed up by ground action. Airpower alone cannot win wars at the strategic level, either physically or morally.

In contrast, tactical use of airpower in land battles has been far more successful. Air Power unleashed against the NVA at Ia Drang and Khe Sanh, in coordination with ground artillery, foiled both mobile and siege tactics: The NVA suffered disproportionately higher casualties in both battles, and fewer American planes were shot down compared to the bombing campaigns over Hanoi. The AirLand Battle doctrine which faced the Iraqi Army in 1991 swept away the enemy in 100 hours, and battles such as Operation Anaconda and Wanat Valley were saved from disaster by close air support. Today, the greatest threat to America’s airpower does not come from enemy fighters, but from A2AD weapons. These A2AD weapons can be eliminated or suppressed by ground forces, and thus air and ground forces must be mutually supporting, preferably organically.

Combining airpower with ground forces can be done on the tactical, operational, and strategic level. To implement organic ground attack aircraft into Army formations, a balance needs to be struck between dispersed deployment and semi-centralized logistics and command. Tactical air power for mechanized ground forces could be consolidated under a Corps, with a ratio of 1 attack aircraft per combat company (the proportion of non-combat aircraft would be different, and so will not be included in this calculation). A flight of 4 attack aircraft would therefore correspond to a combat battalion, and an Infantry Brigade Combat Team would have 4-5 flights (3 Infantry, 1 cavalry, 1 fires battalion):


Moving up to the Corps level, we will use the III Corps as an example: The 1st Armored Division has 23 combat battalions, the 1st Cavalry Division has 20, the 1st Infantry Division has 15, the 4th Infantry Division has 20, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment has 5, and the 75th Field Artillery Brigade has 4; a total of 87 combat battalions (not including each Division’s organic artillery brigades). With 4 combat aircraft per battalion, this equals 348 combat aircraft capable of being in the air at once. If we retain a ratio of 9 aircraft on the ground for every 1 in the air, this number increases to no fewer than 3,480 for an entire Corps.[viii] This number does not include aircraft used for non-combat purposes such as logistics, nor would it include craft like the B-52 or AC-130, who would play a special role and therefore might be officially assigned as extra/supplementary air wings to Airborne or LRS formations. Combined, the number of aircraft integrated into an Army Corps would not be insignificant. Air power’s role in combined-arms warfare would not decline by this move, but integration of land and air power into a seamless whole would be guaranteed.

At the strategic level, this organic integration is superior to the current Army-Air Force organizations. The current setup readily turns Joint Operations into Bifurcated Operations,[ix] and this is the opposite of organic integration. They are compromises between two distinct institutions that function differently (and even at odds) yet are trying to fight the same battle. This leads to problems such as competition for glory and credit, chain of command crises, lack of lateral communication (i.e., compartmentalization) between Army and Air Force staffs, and an ad hoc approach to overcoming problems. This adds unnecessary friction and slows down the tempo of operations. Organic integration, on the other hand, produces unity of command from square one, and assigning different missions to different services reduces inter-service rivalry. In this context, Joint Operations would have the Army and Air Force fighting two separate wars, even if they share the same battlespace: the War against the enemy’s Airpower (Air Supremacy), and the War against his Land Forces (Ground Attack). By rearranging assets, the Air Force can be given all Air War assets (i.e., Fighters), while all Air-Ground aviation is given to the Army (i.e., Attack). The two institutions would no longer be forced to individually straddle these two missions simultaneously, and thus wouldn’t need to make compromises in order to work together.[x] Both would possess anti-aircraft artillery, but the Army would use its reactively as a shield, while the Air Force would use its proactively like a spear (as well as possessing higher-altitude variants). Ultimately, the logic of giving the Army its own attack aircraft is the same as the Navy: no one would argue that the Navy should cede its carrier fighters to the Air Force, but keep the carriers, for the sake of “Jointness” or “Flexibility.”

The rearrangement would also affect policymakers. The idea that Air Supremacy and bombing can bring about victory without committing significant ground forces[xi] continues to be highly popular. The hundreds of dead airmen in Germany and Vietnam, as well as the fiasco of Operation Anaconda (where aerial surveillance failed to detect 700-1000 Al Qaeda fighters or to cut off their escape), should have dispelled this notion long ago, but political decision-makers continue to drop bombs and fire missiles at enemies with negligible follow-up, and then prematurely claim victory. Yet this silver bullet can be endured or thwarted by using tunnel systems, and allows the illusion to persist that wars can be fought cleanly. The consequences of doing this during COIN are less dramatic than what would happen in a conventional war. A conventional war against China or Russia would result in tens (if not hundreds) of millions dead, the global economy wrecked, and the world’s geopolitics forever changed. Airpower’s strategic role must conform to this dirty, bloody reality, and go down the same path the tanks did when infantry acquired anti-tank weapons. Short of a conventional war, the “lean and mean” Air Force can enforce a no-fly zone independently of other services and support STRATCOM’s missions (and STRATCOM’s missile defense branches could protect airfields from massed barrages), but its lack of aircraft capable of engaging ground targets will prevent it from going further. Should America choose to go further, as we did in 2003, the only option available should be through the Army, Navy, and/or Marines (for conventional and COIN missions, respectively), and the Army should be legally forbidden to deploy without a Declaration of War by Congress. These limitations are ultimately designed to prevent lawmakers from unserious, frivolous uses of military force. If they choose to use the military conventionally, then they must have no options but to fully commit. Halfhearted methods have produced a draw in COIN; they will not win a conventional war against a peer opponent.

Total Combined-Arms Doctrine

Against a Peer Opponent, only a holistic approach to combined-arms warfare is appropriate. Against modern weapons, companies and platoons must be capable of independent combined-arms warfare, in both the physical and electro-cyber domains.

At the Squad level, the 9-man Army squad would add a 10th man for EW/Cyber Warfare[xii] (and a 7th for the 6-man recon squad) called a “Radiodrone” operator. He would be part EW, part cyberwarrior, and part drone operator. He would complement, not replace, RATELOs. This tenth man would still allow mechanized infantry to load their squads into APCs without dividing them, and the radiodrone operator could scout with his drones both before and after dismounting (drones are much cheaper and more versatile than turrets for IFVs). These mechanized infantry would be classified as “Heavy” squads (the terms “mechanized” and “heavy” will be used interchangeably in this essay), while airmobile Infantry riding in helicopters would be classified as “Light.” Light Infantry would imitate the 101st Airborne Division,[xiii] and be particularly suitable for fighting in difficult terrain such as mountains. Light Infantrymen would carry no more than 40 lbs. of gear, and cache their sustainment loads after exiting the choppers. Light Infantry would also have an altered structure: instead of squads, they would have half-platoons (HPs) comprised of 22 men apiece:

  • A Half-Platoon Leader
  • 3 Radiodrone operators
  • 3 6-man fire teams
  • 1 Grenadier buddy team
  • 1 Automatic Rifle (AR) buddy team, and
  • 1 Sharpshooter buddy team

Thus, while a heavy squad would have 2 fire teams and a single radiodrone operator, and network with a sharpshooter pair from the recon squad, a Light HP would have 3 fire teams, each already containing a sharpshooter pair, and 3 radiodrone operators. This buddy-pair organization ensures that both Light and Heavy rhyme.[xiv] Light Infantry squads/HPs have traditionally been larger than mechanized infantry squads,[xv] and airmobile infantry will benefit from the extra manpower when fighting in difficult terrain, or behind enemy lines.

At the Platoon level, Light infantry and Heavy infantry diverge again. As mentioned above, a Heavy platoon would contain three 10-man squads, a 7-man recon element, and ride in APCs. A Light infantry platoon would contain two HPs, a mortar squad with 6 mortars, and ride in CH-47s.[xvi] Light infantry in particular will continue to rely on mortars, and their platoons must have at least 1 mortar per fire team. With the Army moving towards adopting a 6.8mm cartridge for its automatic weapons,[xvii] the differences between machine gunners and automatic riflemen will blur even further. It is possible that only heavy machine guns (HMGs) such as the Browning M2 will remain in distinct weapons platoons if both the M240 and M249 are replaced, as every squad leader will want the new gun in his fire teams. If this does happen, then we may also witness the formation of HMG HPs and mortar HPs for infantry platoons and companies. A Tank Platoon would still have 4 tanks but would add a self-propelled gun as a 5th vehicle to provide high-elevation and/or indirect fire support.

Standard companies in an Artillery Army would resemble reinforced companies. Heavy Infantry companies would combine mechanized infantry, armor, and engineer platoons, along with mortar and/or HMG HPs. This organization is designed with urban combat in mind, but is also conducive to mobile operations. Engineers, in particular, are essential for enabling friendly maneuver and impeding hostile maneuver through the use of obstacles, concrete, and mines, while the tank platoons would provide ample tactical firepower to the company commander. Armored Companies would have two heavy infantry platoons and two tank platoons, and rely on their parent battalion’s engineers for their needs. Artillery batteries would mix conventional artillery with A2AD anti-weaponry, EW/Cyberwarfare units, and even nuclear artillery (all of whom would be self-propelled). EW and Cyberwarfare will be used to provide an umbrella of protection over friendly forces like regular artillery, and so adding one vehicle for each into every artillery battery will be ideal for proper dispersion. Light Infantry Companies would have two light platoons and a weapons platoon containing handheld A2AD weapons (primarily Javelins, Carl Gustavs, and MANPADS).

Company commanders would be assisted by newly created Warrant Officer positions serving directly beneath them. These would include an S2 and a pair of S6s to assist with Intelligence, EW, and Cyber Warfare, respectively. Other possibilities at company and battalion level include reconnaissance experts, gunnery experts, Tactical Air Controllers, etc., who can provide expertise on individual tasks and platforms. This not only allows a company commander to make the most of his diverse toolkit in battle, but also provides an administrative pipeline for retaining experienced experts and enabling them to train their successors. Warrant Officers are imperative in a technologically modern army, and increasing their role can assist with decentralization of command structure. Like Andrew Carnegie, our company and battalion commanders must be surrounded by specialists who are smarter than themselves.

Both Light and Heavy infantry battalions would contain mobile artillery batteries. Heavy Infantry and Tank battalions would acquire self-propelled artillery batteries containing conventional self-propelled guns (such as paladins), self-propelled air defense artillery (including C-RAM), and self-propelled EW/Cyber equipment. Light Infantry battalions would possess both helicopter gunships and lighter artillery capable of being carried by helicopter. The latter would preferably be motorized as well, perhaps on the backs of Humvees or some future equivalent. Light Battalions would each contain at least one dismounted scout platoon and, depending on the mission, a second cavalry platoon (either armored or air). Tank battalions would contain heavy infantry companies and armored companies, and an armored scout platoon. A Fires Battalion would keep three batteries for a light IBCT, plus a fourth battery for anti-aircraft defense beyond the capabilities of MANPADS.  In a fires battalion for a Heavy/Armored IBCT, there would be 4 batteries (1 per battalion) plus the anti-aircraft battery, for a total of five.

When we finally reach Brigade level, Light and Heavy Infantry will converge. An infantry brigade, as a miniature version of a division, is the basic maneuver unit of the US Army, and can thus employ multiple battalions of Light and Heavy Infantry together. A Heavy/Mechanized Infantry IBCT would have 2 light and 2 heavy infantry battalions, while a light/airmobile IBCT would have 3 light battalions. An Armored Brigade would have one Light infantry battalion, one armored battalion, and two heavy infantry battalions. All brigades would retain their mechanized cavalry squadrons and enhanced fires battalions.

Corps and divisions would mix and match brigade types according to their missions, using the tools organic to each. For the sake of readiness, the Army should retain at least 1 division apiece for various environments. The 10th Mountain Division, for example, should become a Mountain Division again, and train specifically for warfare above 8,000 feet. Another division should become a Jungle Division, while a third would be a Desert Division, an Arctic Division, an Urban Division, etc. If and when Congress decides to demobilize and shrink the military, these specialized formations should be a top priority for retention, lest their skills be lost. When war is declared again, other formations (light, heavy, armored, etc.) not specially tailored to a particular environment can easily be raised and sent through the various schools as complete units to prepare them for missions. Thanks to the retention of specialized divisions, the schools will possess a large cadre of instructors and the ideal order of battle for that environment will already be established. Furthermore, the non-specialized divisions will benefit from knowledge that they will fight alongside divisions specially dedicated to their operating environment. The knowledge that the adaptable will be led by the experts will boost their confidence and audacity.

The Army currently possesses the necessary hardware and resources to make all of these changes and possesses the administrative infrastructure by means of its various schools. Reestablishing the Jungle Warfare school in Hawaii was the right decision, and the Army should upgrade and expand its own urban combat training facilities to produce a true urban combat school. The advantage of exchanging hats is that it makes the most of the Army’s existing manpower; thus, practically everything can be accomplished today without automatically firing anybody.

Increased Warrant Officers

Enabling Companies and platoons to wage combined-arms warfare under a firepower-guerrilla model requires a decentralized command system. One major issue when attempting to decentralize the Army’s command system is the larger number of commissioned officers who never see combat, even when deployed. Due to the large logistical/support apparatus needed to sustain the Army across the globe, there is a high demand for highly-trained support personnel, most of whom receive their commission after graduating college through ROTC. With equal opportunity for promotion, and no ability to demote officers without ending their careers, the problem becomes obvious: no way to separate the apples from the oranges. Thankfully, there is a way to reconcile the need for college grads with the desire for a smaller officer corps: having warrant officers replace many commissioned officers’ roles, particularly in non-combat roles. College grads would still be recruited from ROTC but would simply be given a warrant instead of a commission if they do not lead combat units. Individuals who show exemplary leadership as warrant officers can still be offered commissions on a case-by-case basis. The result would be a smaller, more selective, and more nimble corps of elite commissioned officers guided by the command philosophy of ‘Experts led by Generalists.’

Warrant officers are also ideal for developing the ideal of the “strategic private.” Staff functions related to intelligence and communications (at a minimum) must not be limited to the brigade or divisional commanders but must extend as low as the company. If every company commander had a small staff accompanying him and providing him with this expertise, then it will be readily available to the platoon leaders and squad leaders as well. Comprising the staff of warrant officers would help with rank and chain of command but would also ensure that company commanders are being advised by men with many more years of experience than them. The addition of recon sections to every platoon, and radiodrone operators to every squad, will provide a natural pipeline of enlisted men for S2 and S6 positions. Potentially every MOS could have such a pipeline, so the Army will have a buffet’s worth to choose from. The Apprentice-Journeyman-Master model is time-tested and the perfect basis for ensuring that the adaptable are led by experts.

Simultaneously, this shift towards warrant officers would need to be accompanied by a separation of rank and pay grade. The “Up or Out” system is good for regularly cleaning house but can easily become a conveyer belt. Separating rank and pay grade allows personnel to choose, at intervals, between changing their responsibilities (rank) or being paid more to keep doing the same tasks. The advantage of this system is that it leaves the decision to the individuals themselves, and provides a mechanism for demotion that is not an automatic career-ender. Men who aren’t cut out for higher-level positions[xviii] of authority can stick to their niche and enjoy regular pay raises commensurate with their experience and seniority. By increasing the percentage and prestige of warrant officers, the Army can attract and retain career soldiers by allowing them to lead from the front, accumulate years of experience, and then train/advise the officers above them without needing to be reassigned. Most career soldiers are specialists by temperament, concrete in their thinking, and desire career stability; an ideal fit for these positions. Career soldiers should be the masters, not the journeymen.


The Artillery Army is not a radical new system. It merely continues the process of combined-arms integration started in the First World War, and attempts an all-of-the-above approach to problem-solving. At its core, it is a hybrid institution custom-built for Multidomain Operations. It seeks to strengthen small units, integrate large ones in parallel, and decentralize command. Rather than relying on a simplistic false dichotomy of “Attrition vs Maneuver,” it uses a 3-Dimensional set of variables to define itself and broaden the mind’s perspective. Defining warfare solely in terms of maneuver is why the Russians, not the Germans, invented Operational Art. As David Glantz writes: [xix]

‘The failure to appreciate the impact of thinking and planning on this larger scale was one of the main reasons for the German defeat at the hands of the Red Army in the Second World War. Even today, there is a tendency for former German officers and those who have learned uniquely from the experiences of those men to misassess Soviet Military capability, applying perceptions which are valid at the tactical level to the operational level, when they are no longer valid. More than one Wehrmacht unit commander has been heard to declare his conviction in the superiority of his troops over his Soviet opponents, pointing to the fact that he defeated a Soviet force three or four times larger. At the same time, a review of the history of the campaign in which he was fighting shows that, whilst he was winning his tactical victory, the entire field army of which he was a part was being engulfed in a catastrophic operational encirclement on a scale which the German commanders could not grasp.’

A broad mind, capable of understanding the independent variables and spotting fleeting opportunities, is key to initiative and creativity. If America plans to fight outnumbered and win across all domains, then her Army will need to prioritize these virtues and readily reward men who possess them. The Artillery Army can supply the means, in the least-invasive way possible.

With conventional warfare covered, Part 3 will cover the Navy and argue that their Marines should be employed as America’s dedicated COIN Force.

End Notes

[i] I.e., G-RAMM: Guided Rockets, Artillery, Mortars and Missiles and non-electronic anti-weaponry

[ii] Men Against Fire, pg. 68

[iii] The Army needs to set up an urban warfare school and have dedicated urban warfare formations as well. Old bases and retired ICBM silos can be repurposed for this school, using the concrete silos to train for tunnel warfare.

[iv] This also fails to remember that the guy punching from the front has brass knuckles, while the guy hitting from behind doesn’t.

[v] Or, since aircraft are limited by loiter time and fuel, one might say aircraft are more akin to rocket artillery in terms of sustainment

[vi] The firebombing produced firestorms which melted asphalt roads and fat inside of peoples’ bodies. Entire districts were wiped off the map, and the scale was so great that even firebreaks failed to contain the blazes.

[vii] General Westmoreland had proposed a plan for a limited offensive into Laos/Southwestern North Vietnam in order to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail and force the North Vietnamese to shift to the strategic defensive. This resembles the Kansas Line used by Matthew Ridgeway in Korea, and had a strong chance of success. It was vetoed, however, and America ceded the strategic initiative to the Communists for the duration of the war.

[viii] The Army would likely assign a squadron or wing to each battalion to avoid splitting them up while rotating flights.

[ix] Adding in SOFCOM would make them multifurcated!

[x] Requiring Commissioned Officers of similar rank, regardless of service, to share an office would go a long way in normalizing jointness.

[xi] There is some employment of Special Forces, but these are few in number and employed no differently from SWAT Teams. They are not the same as deploying an Infantry brigade.

[xii] EW and Cyberwarfare are interrelated, but distinct, fields and should not be seen as interchangeable.

[xiii] The author would recommend returning the 101st to a true airborne parachute division, identical to the 82nd, for conventional conflicts. Adopting the “light” model for multiple divisions reduces its uniqueness (although it will still have the pride of being a pioneer in the field), so returning it to an airborne division is preferable for Esprit de Corps. Not to mention 2 Airborne Divisions is better for a 2-front war.

[xiv] These follow the trinity as well: Grenadiers correspond to Firepower Warfare, Automatic Riflemen to Mobile Warfare, and Sharpshooters to Guerrilla/Ranger Warfare.

[xv] Iran used larger squads than Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88)

[xvi] Light Infantry will also need to train in long-distance rucking, since they will be called upon to maneuver in difficult terrain and conduct long-range infiltration.

[xvii] The 5.56 is still a capable caliber for individual infantrymen, and has the benefit of being lighter and more compact than larger-caliber ammunition.

[xviii] A classic example of this is Joseph Hooker, who failed to win the Battle of Chancellorsville but was a highly successful Corps Commander under his successors. His example is worth mentioning in particular because he admitted his niche and was an asset to Meade and Grant instead of undermining them.

[xix] David Glantz, ‘Soviet Military Operational Art: In Search of In Pursuit of Deep Battle (Soviet (Russian) Military Theory and Practice Book 2)’

About the Author(s)

Michael Gladius is the pseudonym for a budding commentator in the fields of military history and theory. His goal is to blend the lessons of history, principles of human behavior, and practical wisdom in order to draw upon a wide array of factors for optimized solutions and problem-solving. He is currently studying in Europe.



Sat, 09/25/2021 - 8:01am

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