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FORCE 2025: Informing the Army’s future structure

dimsum

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When Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre assumed command of the Canadian Army in August 2019, numerous initiatives were underway to modernize the force. With release in January 2021 of Advancing with Purpose: The Canadian Army Modernization Strategy, those initiatives are now aligned and knitted together under “one umbrella” providing a five-year change agenda. In the Fall 2020 issue, LGen Eyre spoke about the strategy and one of it’s two key initiatives, an adapted Managed Readiness Plan to inform how forces are generated. Shortly before he was named Acting Chief of the Defence Staff in February, he spoke with editor Chris Thatcher about the second, Force 2025, a wide-ranging effort to analyze force structure.

 

MilEME09

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Force 2050 if I recall correctly could result in major changes to the Canadian Army. Which COA they pick we won't know for awhile though as the decision won't be made till this fall at the earliest. If you have DWAN access, there is a lot of information on F2050
 

FJAG

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I've been researching quite a bit into the "Advancing With Purpose" Army transformation process that started back in 1997 and reached its formula in the early '00s with the "Army of Today, Interim Army, and Army of Tomorrow" concept that was targeting 2020 as its end-state.

I guess with Gen Eyre's statement in the most recent iteration of AwP of: To succeed in this milieu, the Army we have is not the Army we need, we're admitting that we missed the mark.

I know, I know, things change--but I'm a cynic and the various Waypoints on the road to 2020 should have caused us to make corrections along the way. And if I'm not mistaken, Gen Leslie in 2008, after the problems we encountered in Panjwaii (especially Medusa), set a course direction with the intent to make a part of our force heavy with tanks and Close Combat vehicles and some of the other kit needed, but did that carry through? ... Nooooo ... the Army cancelled all that in 2013 after Leslie had retired and put all of its eggs firmly back on the road to a light to middle weight organization with no air defence etc etc concentrating on delivering nothing bigger than a battle group through a system of managed unreadiness.

I've seen a few pieces of the 2025 puzzle and think that the Army might actually be aiming in the right direction at last but although I am cautiously optimistic, I've been disappointed before.

$.02

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Ostrozac

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It appears to me that we are, as an army, approaching a decision point. The time for bluffing our way into a war and assuming that with some strong junior leadership and cobbled together equipment everything will work out fine may be long past. But a fundamental restructure will be hard, very very hard. Even if we need it.

To borrow a quote from the late Antony Beevor in one of his studies of the British Army “All the chickens have come home to roost, but there’s no room for them to land because the fields are full of sacred cows.”
 

Kirkhill

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Recognizing that it’s early in the process, do you have particular areas of focus where you might start to look at structural changes?

Do we have the size of our force elements right? Is the company, is the squadron, is the battery design that we have now, is it fit for purpose for some of the new capabilities we’re bringing in, and the new way of operating? That’s why the operating concept, Close Engagement, has to go hand-in-hand with the structural concept. How do we do combat team attacks? How do we do company group attacks in an adaptive dispersed environment? That thinking needs to inform Force 2025 as well.

We need to take a look at the demand signal for some of our capabilities. CIMIC (Civil-Military Co-operation), for example, has a high demand both internationally and domestically. Do we have the force generation for that right? And it is going to be increasingly important that we invest in our Reserve mission tasks.

Like Income Tax the Four Company Battalion was a WWI innovation. I believe that it was occasioned by the need to make best use of the few available trained officers and NCOs, putting a bunch of untrained subbies and privates under close-supervision. It also resulted in the rise of the Major.

Prior to concentrating those troops for the slaughter the army was structured around 8-10 small companies commanded by Captains and aided by a Lieutenant and a trainee officer (Ensign or Cornet) The Lt Col had a Major or two to assist him. The army (at least the British Army and the Royal Marines) existed and operated in a dispersed environment - one that necessitated working with the locals and the local government. The army's regiments suffered as much from its troops going native as it did from the occasional massacre that prompted a punitive expedition.

If Dispersed Operations are back in the cards does the Army need more Captains with independent commands and is OJT a viable means of training them and their replacements?

What can be done with 10x companies of 40-50?
 

a_majoor

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What can be done with 10x companies of 40-50?

It really depends on the sort of doctrine that is being used. Modern weapons bring what used to be Battalion and Company support weapons capabilties down to the Company and Platoon (think of things like the Javelin or Spike ATGM and Starstreak MANPAD). Many different types of weapons and capabilities are merging in ways which are difficult to characterize in any traditional manner (think of the Switchblade UAV - electrically powered, range of up to 10km, has a camera and datalink and a 40mm warhead, and is recoverable if no target is discovered - all in a package about the same size as a traditional 60mm mortar tube).

Perhaps far more telling is the information revolution coming to the field - allowing units to draw upon and share information all up and down the chain - so long as proper EW precautions are taken (or even if not - how many soldiers use the capabilities of their cell phones like cameras, GPS and Google in the field?).

Questions like mobility and dispersed logistics are still being examined and answers developed - do solders get resupplied by drones or GPS guided parachute drops of packages? Do you drive around in a LAV or a quad ATV or something in between - or do you walk?

Whatever future force structure is being developed will eventually need to be modular and flexible enough to operate at all levels of warfare, deal with enemy doctrines like "Hybrid Warfare", "Unrestricted Warfare" or "4GW" (likely by being able to "plug and play" with other, non military aspects of the National DIME infrastructure (Diplomacy, Information, Military, Economic) and cross functional across all the different Domains - (Land, Sea, Air, Space, Electromagnetic, Cyber, Cognitive).

But without an understanding of what Canada's Grand Strategy is, or the doctrine needed to carry this out, you can simply go down rabbit holes and never come up with any sort of satisfactory or even usable answer.
 

daftandbarmy

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What can be done with 10x companies of 40-50?

You've pretty much described a parachute battalion....

In 1 PARA, if not on ops in NI or whatever and beefed up accordingly, we never exceed about 60 per rifle company which, of course, meant that we had to carry everything for a 100+ person company (and do the job) anyways. Having said that, we had various atts and dets from the Bde such as engineers, gunners, RAFLOs etc.

In the airborne role, we rarely put more than 500 pax or so out the Herc doors and under parachute on our various exercises. Our SPE (NEO) Ops were planned based on using those numbers in action in the event we were deployed somewhere nasty.

Well, nastier than Aldershot on a Saturday night, that is :)

So, in a light role then, you can get alot done with that number I would say.
 

Kirkhill

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But without an understanding of what Canada's Grand Strategy is, or the doctrine needed to carry this out, you can simply go down rabbit holes and never come up with any sort of satisfactory or even usable answer.

Conversely we need to understand the range of capabilities currently available to the government with the assets available, and what the next iteration might look like while maintaining the budget envelope. Then we get to compare needs and capabilities and formulate that grand strategy.

Some folks call it GAP analysis - the Gap between what we need and what we have.
 

McG

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Like Income Tax the Four Company Battalion was a WWI innovation. I believe that it was occasioned by the need to make best use of the few available trained officers and NCOs, putting a bunch of untrained subbies and privates under close-supervision. It also resulted in the rise of the Major.

Prior to concentrating those troops for the slaughter the army was structured around 8-10 small companies commanded by Captains and aided by a Lieutenant and a trainee officer (Ensign or Cornet) The Lt Col had a Major or two to assist him.
I thought that change came as part of the Cardwell reforms.
 

Old Sweat

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I think Kirkhill is pretty close. For example, 2 RCR operated on an eight company establishment with captains commanding the companies for South Africa, along with two majors - one the DCO - and a basic support organization including machine gun and signals sections. The battalion could fight as two half-battalions.

Jumping ahead to the Salsbury Plain in 1914-1915, our battalions played musical org charts, switching back and forth between eight and four companies, until finally going firm on the latter.
 

McG

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Yep. That would be correct:
Until the eve of the First World War infantry battalions were divided into eight companies, each normally commanded by a captain, although sometimes by a major, and assisted by two subalterns. Every captain, if his company was at full strength, was responsible for the work of about 100 NCOs and men.
David French, Military Identities : The Regimental System, the British Army, and the British People C. 1870-2000, Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 2005.
 

Kirkhill

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Thanks for the challenge - it forced me to go back and check my memory.

This from the RUSI Journal of 1914

1622126281051.png



In the Canadian context, from my copy of Daniel Dancock's "Gallant Canadians", a regimental history of the 10th Bn CEF, page 12, I gleaned the following:

In early 1915, against an authorized strength of 34 officers and 929 ORs the 10th showed 1124 on it rolls, including 44 officers. It was overstrength prior to going across to France and being blooded at St Julien's Woods in April.

"Several organizational changes took place while the Tenth Battalion was on Salisbury Plain. One of these involved the formation of a machine-gun section. Each battalion in the Canadian contingent was issued four American-made Colt(s)....

"The Battalion was also organized into four companies, but it was a convoluted process. The entire Canadian contingent had come to England in eight-company battalions. On 1 November they "reverted" (sic) to four companies, but this was over-turned later in the month by the War Office, which decreed that all British battalions must have eight companies. Unable to make up its mind, the War Office reversed itself in December, and the battalions had no sooner switched to four companies that they were once again ordered to restore the eight-company organization. The final decision was made in January 1915 in favour of four companies, designated by the letters A, B, C, and D. The Tenth was ordered to reorganize on this basis on 18 January and completed the change on the twenty-first"

It always gives me great pleasure to discover that some things never change.

For backdrop, prior to January 1915 the Old Contemptibles, the regulars, had engaged in the Retreat from Mons, the Battle of the Frontiers, the Race to the Sea and the First Battle of Ypres. There wasn't much of the old army left.

Edit: Another way of looking at it - November 1914 to January 1915 was the transition from the Cavalry led war of manoeuvre to the three year siege led, as usual, by engineers, artillery and the Forlorn Hope of the infantry.
 
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Kirkhill

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With McG's question I was encouraged to take another look at the organization of the British/Canadian Army.

In August 1914 the 8-company battalion was the rule.
By January 1915, the death of the regular army and the advent of siege warfare the Brits reformed around a very large battalion with 4 companies.

That is the structure with which the battles of Ypres, Loos and the Somme were fought in 1915 and 1916. The battles that destroyed the Territorials (and reduced battalions of Canadians, like the 10th to 10 to 25% of their original strength) It was also the period when the Mills bomb, the rifle grenade and the Lewis gun were introduced to the arsenal.

By February 1917 Kitchener's Army and the Canadians were reorganized to fight battles as independent platoons of 28 to 44 ORs organized into four sections each under an NCO (CQB - bayonets and bombers, Spt - Lewis Gun and rifle-grenades). Under the command of an officer and 4 ORs (runners/communicators). Effectively the army had reverted to the tactical organization of 1914 - a large number of semi-autonomous commands loosely co-ordinated.

Tactically, the four-company battalion only existed in the field from January 1915 to February 1917. Two years.

And yet here we are, over a hundred years later, debating if it is the right structure for the present day.


Pamphlet SS143 Instructions for the Training of Platoons for Offensive Action, 1917.

In fact, is it too much to say that by 1917 they were swarming the enemy?
 
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Kirkhill

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Field exercise and evolutions of infantry - 1859 is freely available on line.
Best Canadian exemplars of the structure is the Fort Henry Guard which exercises as a small company with an artillery section attached.

Not promoting return to redcoats and pipeclay (although I wonder if replicating the FHG exercises with modern small arms and blanks on the parade square might not be an interesting training increment - a study in fire control, listening for and obeying orders when the shooting starts, trusting your mates to cover for you while you prepare to cover them).

However the organization is interesting.

Company of 40 rank and file organized by files of two. 20 Files to the Company. 10 Files to the Sub-Division. 5 Files to the Section. A detached Section or less also known as a Squad.

Corporals in the Ranks as part of the Sections.
4 Sergeants to the rear responsible for one of the 4 Sections.
1 Covering Sergeant responsible for the 4 Sergeants.

1 Captain responsible for the company
1 Sr Subaltern assisting the Captain
1 Jr Subaltern learning his trade

In battle Sr Subaltern given independent control of the Left Flank Subdivision (20 ORs and 2 Sgts). Jr Subaltern assigned to the Right Flank Subdivision (20 ORs and 2 Sgts) which is under the direct command of the Captain.

Weapons and spacings may have changed - but have the organizational principles changed?
 

blacktriangle

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Weapons and spacings may have changed - but have the organizational principles changed?
They certainly have changed. Organize and re-organize all you want, but when you're lacking ATGMs, GBAD, and Long Range Artillery, it's probably futile.

I think the best the CAF can hope to do is to possibly replicate what the UK is trying to do with the Strike Brigades. Maybe the CA could build a Strike Bde or BG based on LAV 6.0 (including LRSS) - but it will still require addressing the deficiencies listed above.

I get that people don't love medium weight capabilities for Europe or the idea of "defeating at distance", but I see no other alternative for the CAF. A few LAVs on their own won't deter a peer adversary, so why not use them to enable more capable systems? Systems that will serve as a form of deterrent, and that will provide true combat capability if required?
 

daftandbarmy

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They certainly have changed. Organize and re-organize all you want, but when you're lacking ATGMs, GBAD, and Long Range Artillery, it's probably futile.

I think the best the CAF can hope to do is to possibly replicate what the UK is trying to do with the Strike Brigades. Maybe the CA could build a Strike Bde or BG based on LAV 6.0 (including LRSS) - but it will still require addressing the deficiencies listed above.

I get that people don't love medium weight capabilities for Europe or the idea of "defeating at distance", but I see no other alternative for the CAF. A few LAVs on their own won't deter a peer adversary, so why not use them to enable more capable systems? Systems that will serve as a form of deterrent, and that will provide true combat capability if required?

For 'light' Infantry, and other similar dismounted units, I believe that the organizational structures and principles that have been in place since WW2 (or the Bronze Age) would remain largely unchanged due to the limitations of the human body to carry much more than 60lbs (ish) in battle for extended periods, as well as the span of control limitations present in any dismounted force - until we all get issued jet packs of course..

Once we 'go mounted', the possibilities abound as the Army, like the Navy and Air Force, begin to 'man the equipment' rather than 'equip the man'. For the Army, alot of our organizational imperatives seem to be driven, shaped and incluenced by the Infantry, whether or not we realize it, too which is something to note. Arcane arguments about 'six or twleve' soldiers per section therefore become a moot point, for example, if your job is to figure out how to stuff four or five infanteers in the back of a Merkava.

Whilst in the UK I talked to a boffin who was working on some kind of theoretical principle/ doctrine to guide Army organizational structures based on some widely (but informally) recognized principles utilized by the Navy and Air Force related to manning equipment, and leadership and other practises suited to such environments, to best achieve desired effects etc. While fascinating, as that would mean the Army would have to admit to learning something from the other arms and services I assumed that he was engaged in the academic equivalent of a 'Forlorn Hope' :)

Regardless, the combat arms (and others) have been successfully reshaping and adapting their org structures for decades to meet emerging needs, and I don't think we'll ever see an end to the need to retain that kind of flexibility.
 

Kirkhill

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Organize and re-organize all you want, but when you're lacking ATGMs, GBAD, and Long Range Artillery, it's probably futile.

For me though, the underlying question, whether it is about filling LAV seats, big sections, big platoons, big companies or big battalions, is whether it is more important to have a small number of large bodies or a large number of small bodies.

Personally I fall on the side of preferring a large number of small bodies, and I like the historical precedents.

The large number of small bodies supplies the bases for a the specialist capabilities you seek and also supply the basis of swarming tactics - a resilient horde that increases the number of targets the enemy sees, decreases their ability to counter the entire swarm and increases the number of nodes available to the friendly commander to observe and affect the battle.

And if the number of people in a body can be reduced by augmenting the body with motors and wires, I'm all for it.

As has been discussed before - 4 tanks with 16 crew on board. When adding UGV Tanks do you add 4 to 12 unmanned vehicles and concentrate the 16 crew in 4 hulls? Or do you distribute the 16 crew among 16 hulls? Or 4 crew among 4 hulls?

I favour the one person per hull solution supported by internal AI and an external net.

Further to D&B's comment - which I support generally - my, again, personal belief, is that the Canadian Army regularly seems to stuff-up by opting for the big command (largest number of bodies on parade) rather than the most capable command (largest number of guns on parade).
 

medic5

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For 'light' Infantry, and other similar dismounted units, I believe that the organizational structures and principles that have been in place since WW2 (or the Bronze Age) would remain largely unchanged due to the limitations of the human body to carry much more than 60lbs (ish) in battle for extended periods, as well as the span of control limitations present in any dismounted force - until we all get issued jet packs of course.
The Spartans organized themselves mostly territorially, but it seems in war (at least according to Xenophon and Thucydides) they did have tactical formations.

Spartan Army: 3500
Morai: 576
Lochoi: 144
Pentekostayi: 72
Enomotia: 3 x 12

A Roman legion was roughly 4800 strong divided into 10 cohorts (one of them double strength) with 6 centuries in each, further divided into 10 contubernium.

Legion: 4800
Cohort: 480
Century: 80
Contubernium: 8

The Mongols organized themselves into multiples of 10.

Tumen: 10,000
Mingghan: 1000
Zuun: 100
Arban: 10

Has organization really changed much through history? I'm willing to guess that even in prehistory humans have always organized themselves into similarly sized groups to fight.
 

FJAG

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The key issue, and I think one where the answer varies depending on who one asks, is the question of span of control. How many entities can you mange before it's necessary to hand off part of the leadership task to someone else?

My understanding has always been that the optimum for us humans is five (maybe that's because of the number of digits on one hand 🤷‍♂️). Once you try to control more than five entities, especially in complex and fluid situations, you lose effectiveness.

Generally speaking that's roughly what we do in most of our organizations when you look at sections in a platoon, platoons in a company, companies in a battalion and battalions in a brigade and so on.

While there is some benefit to be garnered from technology I'm not sure one can increase the entities managed by one person or headquarters much beyond that.

Incidentally D&B, I'm with you on the "equip the man v man equipment" issue. For all intents and purposes we've switched to an army that mans equipment for quite some time now. That's one of the main reasons I get so wrapped around the axle about the fact that well over half of our army (the reserve part and quite a bit of the regular part) are not being given any equipment to man. We keep pretending that this doesn't matter in order for the Army to be effective. It does and it will matter.

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