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International Land Force Developments

It remains a common global practice: While acknowledging the uncertainties of threats in a rapidly changing global environment, one certitude shared by political leaders around the world is that the unknowns will be addressed, in large part, by land forces.

While calendar year 2010 culminated a full decade that saw myriad changes across the global defense landscape, a number of common threads seem to have guided many global land force developments over the past 12 months.

Examples of these threads range from expanded coalition training operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere to a recognition of cyber/information threats to land forces. In addition, while many international land forces continue to upgrade and procure major hardware systems designed to optimize future ground force capabilities, those programs are evolving and maturing against the background of national and international economic difficulties that has occasionally bordered on crisis.

An example of some of the challenges associated with growing coalition operations was provided in Feb. 1, 2010, press conference remarks by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Countering some 2009 press reports that “unity in NATO was fracturing” or that “there was no clear strategy” for NATO operations in Afghanistan, the secretary general observed, “After important decisions taken these last couple of months we see a new momentum.” Pointing to the results of a recent London meeting, he noted, “In London, almost 70 countries made clear commitments not only to maintain their support for Afghanistan, but in many cases to step it up.

U.S. Army Sgt. Harold McFadden with the Civil Military Support Team (CMST), along with members of Republic of Korea Provincial Reconstruction Team Force provide security during a visit to Charikar, Parwan province, Afghanistan. The CMST and ROK PRT visited the city of Charikar to address some concerns the mayor may have within the city. With this contingent, South Korea became the 46th nation to contribute to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kristina Gupton

“Almost 40 out of 44 countries in the ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] mission have now made offers to send fresh forces to the operation,” he added, “getting us close to the 40,000 that Gen. [Stanley] McChrystal [then-ISAF commander] assesses he needs.

“Yes, 2010 will be a decisive year,” he acknowledged. “It will also be challenging, and there will be many bad days. But I am confident that we have the strategy, the resources, and the unity we need to see real momentum this year.”

He went on to tie the growing multinational realities with current economic realities, stating, “We will focus on resources – and in particular, how to get the most value for hard-pressed defense budgets. One important way to do that [is] by developing multinational capabilities – to buy and run together what is simply more expensive if we do it, and duplicate it, on a national basis.”

The cited ISAF mission in Afghanistan also features participation from non-NATO countries, with the largest non-NATO contributor being Australia.

In addition, in late April of this year, the Australian Government Department of Defence “acknowledged that the NATO Secretary General has formally welcomed the Republic of Korea [ROK] as the 46th contributor to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.”

“Following an offer by the South Korean Government in November 2009 to deploy a Provincial Reconstruction Team [PRT] to Parwan province,” it continued, “the relevant certification processes have been completed and the ROK has been officially recognized as a non-NATO ISAF Contributing Nation.”

“Australia is committed to the NATO-led ISAF mission to stabilize Afghanistan, with around 1,550 Australian Defence Force personnel deployed there,” said Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston. “We warmly welcome the Republic of Korea as a non-NATO ISAF Contributing Nation and look forward to assisting the ROK PRT prepare for its deployment. The ROK team will comprise 50 to 70 civilians, 30 to 50 police officers, and 200 to 400 infantry troops. The troops will be tasked with protection of the PRT and will not play a combat role.”

The development of new multinational capabilities is a growing trend outside of ISAF as well.

July 2010, for example, saw the governments of Australia and Thailand “enhance regional peacekeeping cooperation by co-hosting the multilateral peacekeeping exercise, Exercise Pirap Jabiru, in Bangkok.

According to the announcement, the exercise was expanded in 2006 to include participants from around the region. In 2010, a total of 14 countries sent military and police participants, making the exercise a significant regional event while highlighting the commitment of both Australia and Thailand in promoting regional peacekeeping efforts.

In another regional example about the same time, Chinese and Pakistani armed forces announced a July 2010 “joint anti-terrorism drill” in northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

British soldiers cross open ground with Taliban bullets zipping over their heads. The patrol came under long-range fire from insurgents unwilling to get close to the patrol due to their fear of its capability. Using the concept of “tactical patience,” the Agfhan National Police and ISAF were unwilling to get drawn into unnecessary fire fights that could potentially damage local buildings. While maintaining its commitment to Afghanistan, the U.K. made deep cuts in its forces. British Army photo by SSgt Mark Jones

With the code name “Friendship-2010,” the drill featured “special units” of approximately 100 participants from each country and reportedly marked the third such effort – following “Friendship-2004” and “Friendship-2006” – between the two countries.

Another example emerged in early November 2010 when China’s Ministry of National Defense announced a weeklong joint military operation between the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Turkey’s armed forces. The operation, which took place in Turkey, reportedly included “training of basic assault skills in hilly terrains and tactics.” A ministry statement added that “The training [was] aimed at enhancing mutual understanding and trust, deepening communication and cooperation between the two armies.”

China’s growing international defense presence is also being reflected in China’s growing personnel commitments to United Nations peace missions. In July of this year, the Chinese Ministry of National Defense highlighted a total of 15,603 Chinese soldiers participating in 18 United Nations peacekeeping missions since 1990, with 1,960 soldiers deployed in U.N. peacekeeping missions in nine mission areas or working in the U.N. peacekeeping department at that time.

Another international trend involves a growing appreciation of the threat represented by cyber/information operations.

One of many examples emerged in early October when China’s Central Military Commission outlined a PLA military exercise designed to “improve the force’s combat capability in high-tech warfare.” The exercise, which included infantry forces, paratroopers, and air forces, reportedly centered around “battle scenarios in a ‘complex information environment’ as well as across different terrains and weather conditions. …”

2010 also witnessed a number of land force hardware procurements on either combined or regional complementary bases.

The sale of a combined 48 Archer self-propelled 155 mm howitzers to Norway and Sweden highlights a trend toward cooperation between friendly nations in procurement. Photo courtesy of BAE Systems

Late March 2010 saw an example of this when BAE Systems announced the award of a $200 million contract “to commence series production of 48 Archer 155 mm self-propelled artillery gun systems and their associated ammunition handling systems for the Swedish and Norwegian armed forces.”

The Archer system combines the proven firepower of the BAE Systems’ FH77 B05 (52-caliber length) 155 mm cannon with a modified Volvo commercial A30E 6×6 rugged articulated vehicle. The weapon provides an enhanced operational capability, delivering concentrated firepower with conventional munitions to a range of 40-plus kilometers and to ranges up to 50 kilometers with advanced munitions while the crew of three remains fully protected in the armored cab command module.

The 2010 production contract, which follows a $146 million development program that began in 2003, will deliver the first operational systems in October 2011.

“Archer is an important program for the armed forces of both countries and for BAE Systems’ land business, as it is in a core area for us and will provide a springboard for future exports,” observed Mike Smith, managing director of BAE Systems, Global Combat Systems Weapons. “We appreciate the effort and cooperation that the FMV and FLO – the national procurement agencies – have invested in ensuring the procurement of the most advanced and capable artillery system for the Swedish and Norwegian armies.”

BAE Systems announced additional contracts in the Nordic market just over a month later, including a contract to supply 16 RG32M mine-hardened patrol vehicles to the Finland Defense Force, worth more than $8.1 million and a $7.2 million amendment to an existing contract to enhance the propulsion and mobility of Norwegian M113 vehicles.

The contracts also reflect the ability of the defense industry to apply appropriate technologies from their own global base, since the RG32M order from Finland, which followed on from a contract for six similar vehicles in November 2006, is being carried out by the Land Systems business in South Africa, with delivery of all the vehicles anticipated to be completed by early 2011.

According to the announcement, “The order is for current standard production vehicles, including a suspension upgrade. The contract also includes an order for the new Series 3 variant, which provides for a higher payload, increased power and higher protection levels. There are currently 200 RG32M vehicles in service with Sweden’s armed forces, several of which are deployed in Afghanistan.

“The contract modification for the Norwegian M113 vehicles will provide 25 upgrade kits required to convert the existing M113s to the M113E3 configuration,” it added. “The upgrade kits include powerpack, suspension, weld, air conditioning and hydraulic manifold. These upgrades will supplement 72 kits [that] the company provided to Norway between 2007 and 2009, and as before will be supplied by BAE Systems in the USA. BAE Systems’ suspension upgrades enable the vehicle to use rubber band tracks and provide passengers with a smoother ride. The company will also provide support to the Defense Logistics Organization in Norway.”

As noted earlier, the representative international land force developments cited here have taken place against a 2010 background of national and international economic difficulties.

The seriousness of those economic difficulties was made quite clear in late October of this year, when the United Kingdom released its Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) and accompanying National Security Strategy.

Entitled “Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defense and Security Review” (published Oct. 19, 2010), the document detailed how the armed forces of the U.K. will be “reshaped to tackle emerging and future threats.”

According to U.K. Secretary of State for Defence Dr. Liam Fox, the review process maintained two main priorities: to ensure that the U.K. mission in Afghanistan is protected and to make sure that the U.K. emerges with a coherent defense capability in 2020.

“Defense cannot continue on an unaffordable footing,” he noted. “The SDSR aims to bring defense plans, commitments and resources into balance so that we have a coherent defense capability and a sustainable defense program for the future.”

As a result of the review, the army will be structured around five “multi-role brigades,” with each brigade including reconnaissance, armored, mechanized, and light infantry forces with supporting units of equipment and enablers. One of the brigades will be maintained at “high readiness” for an intervention operation with the remaining four brigades in support to ensure the ability to sustain enduring stabilization operations.

Australian 1st Mentoring Task Force (MTF-1) soldiers are confronted with some very steep terrain and hot conditions during the patrol back to their base in Deh Rawood, southern Afghanistan. Mentoring Team Delta (MT-D), part of the 1st Mentoring Task Force, began operations in the Deh Rawood area, west of Tarin Kowt, in early July 2010. Operations in the Deh Rawood Valley Region became part of MTF-1 responsibilities that synchronized with the drawdown of Dutch forces in Uruzgan province. Australia has made major troop commitments to Afghanistan, despite not being a NATO member. Australian Department of Defence photo

“The Army will retain 16 Air Assault Brigade, a high readiness intervention brigade with supporting units, trained and equipped to be one of the first ground forces to intervene in a new conflict,” the report noted. “The Army will also retain the ability to command operations at very senior level through the UK-led Allied Rapid Reaction Corps headquarters [part of NATO]. And we will retain our capacity to deliver one UK, fully deployable, senior level [divisional] headquarters, and the ability to regenerate a second deployable divisional headquarters.”

Changes needed to meet the requirements of the new force structure include a reduction of approximately 7,000 Army personnel (to about 95,000 personnel) by 2015, “but with no changes to combat units involved in Afghanistan, and an assumption, for now, of a requirement of about 94,000 by 2020.”

Additional changes include reduction in the number of deployable brigades during the restructuring to five multi-role brigades, reduction in Challenger 2 tanks by approximately 40 percent, and reduction in heavy artillery by approximately 35 percent.

Acknowledging the significant changes incorporated in the SDSR, U.S. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell noted, “The U.K. Strategic Defense and Security Review and accompanying National Security Strategy have undertaken the difficult but necessary task of setting priorities and making choices during tough fiscal times.

“The U.K.’s assessment of the security threats we all face such as terrorism, proliferation, and cyber attack is very similar to that of the United States,” he said. “This shared view and a commitment to work together to address these challenges is at the heart of the special relationship enjoyed by our countries.

“The British military has distinguished itself by its valor and professionalism in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he added. “Indeed, we have had no more capable or resolute military ally. We are pleased that the U.K. clearly intends to maintain its historical role as a leading nation that shapes global security, and the fourth largest military budget in the world. …”

In what some might see as a “re-weaving” of many of the common international land force threads of 2010, approximately two weeks after the release of the SDSR, leaders from the U.K. and France released a “UK–France Summit 2010 Declaration on Defence and Security Co-operation.”

“The UK and France are natural partners in security and defence,” it began. “As permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, NATO Allies, European Union members, and Nuclear Weapons States, we share many common interests and responsibilities. We are proud of our outstanding and experienced armed forces and our advanced defence industries.

“We are determined to act as leaders in security and defence,” it continued. “Security and prosperity are indivisible. That is why, between us, we invest half of the defence budget of European nations and two thirds of the research and technology spending. We are among the most active contributors to operations in Afghanistan and in other crises areas around the world. We are equally among the few nations able and ready to fulfill the most demanding military missions. Today, we have reached a level of mutual confidence unprecedented in our history.”

Summarizing the uncertain future facing land forces in 2010, the summit declaration stated, “Together we face new challenges such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, terrorism, cyber attacks, maritime and space security. We must be ready to prevent, deter, defend against and counter those threats. More than ever, we need defence capabilities that are robust, can be rapidly deployed and are able to operate together and with a range of allies.”

BAE Systems won a contract to supply 16 RG32M mine-hardened patrol vehicles, such as the one shown above, to Finland’s Defense Force. Photo courtesy of BAE Systems

In intensifying cooperation for the forces of the two nations to operate together and maximize their joint capabilities, the summit outlined a number of decisions surrounding: operations and training; equipment and capabilities; unmanned air systems; defense industry; research and technology; counter-terrorism; NATO; and selected regional global threats.

In terms of a Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, the summit acknowledged a decision to “develop a Combined Joint Expeditionary Force suitable for a wide range of scenarios, up to and including high intensity operations. It will involve all three Services: there will be a land component comprised of formations at national brigade level, maritime and air components with their associated Headquarters, and logistics and support functions. It will not involve standing forces but will be available at notice for bilateral, NATO, European Union, United Nations or other operations. We will begin with combined air and land exercises during 2011 and will develop the concept before the next UK-France Summit and progress towards full capability in subsequent years. The Force will stimulate greater interoperability and coherence in military doctrine, training and equipment requirements.”

In another example with application to both land forces and joint forces, unmanned air systems were highlighted as “hav[ing] become essential to our armed forces. We have agreed to work together on the next generation of Medium Altitude Long Endurance Unmanned Air Surveillance Systems. Co-operation will enable the potential sharing of development, support and training costs, and ensure that our forces can work together. We will launch a jointly funded, competitive assessment phase in 2011, with a view to new equipment delivery between 2015 and 2020.”

And, as in many other instances around the world, the threat of cyber attacks were acknowledged as “an increasing challenge for the security of government and critical national infrastructure, especially at times of conflict. …”

Indicative of continuing trends in these and other arenas, the summit statement concluded, “We have instructed the Senior Level Group, which will be set up under the terms of the new Treaty for Defence and Security Co-operation, to oversee work in all of these areas and to report back to us at our next Summit to be held in France in 2011.”

This article first appeared in The Year in Defense: Review Edition, Winter 2011.

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...