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The Optimal Battle Group vs. the Affiliated Battle Group

McG

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There has been much discussion on this site about replacing the current brigade and battalion structures with something new.  There have been threads on the ability for Engr and Arty sub-units to sustain their skills if permanently entrenched within an infantry battalion.  There have been other threads suggesting that it is not even possible for two types of infantry (light & mech) to co-exist in one unit without horrible skill atrophy.  However, we are continually reminded of the value that organizations, which will fight together, should be training together.

So, what is right for the Army, the Optimal Battle Group (OBG) or the Affiliated Battle Group (ABG)?  In an OBG, all of the sub-units permanently exist within the unit even in Canada.  An OBG would include a mix of infantry (light & mech), armour, artillery, engineer, CS and CSS.  In an ABG system, all the required sub-units for three BG exist in each CMBG.  However, the sub units exist in functional parent units and are permanently affiliated with one of infantry battalions (the # RCHA has three batteries, the CER has three field squadrons, the armd regt has three recce squadrons, etc).

The ABG could even provide an alternative to the identical infantry battalion concept.  Instead of three battalions with 2 x mech and 1 x light coy, the light could remain light & affiliate two of its rifle coy with the other battalions.  In turn, each mech battalion would have a rifle coy affiliated with the light battalion.

Perhaps the the right answer is a little from column A and a little from column B.  2 PPCLI and 2 RCR both find themselves physically separated from their brigades.  These two units could exist as OBGs while the rest of the Army adopts a ABG structure.

Thoughts?
 

STING

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  Perhaps have all the regular infantry battalions become Mech and have a unit of CSOR attached to each brigade as their light infantry capability. Just a thought ...
 

Journeyman

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STING said:
   Perhaps have all the regular infantry battalions become Mech and have a unit of CSOR attached to each brigade as their light infantry capability. Just a thought ...
STING said:
        Perhaps station one of the future companies of CSOR at the Chilliwack base . They wouldn't require the logistics and support of a full batallion . Plus a great training area for light infantry with all the coastal mountain terrain in BC . Just a idea .....

While everyone is entitled to their "thoughts" and "ideas," they tend to fly better if they're informed opinions.

CSOR, when fully manned, will have two DA Coys and an SF Coy.....and you want to somehow provide three Coys to the Brigades and another Coy to garrison Chilliwack. That would be four independent Coys, isolated from their HQ and support elements (those are important things, by the way).

Do you now see why the expression, "stay in your lane," keeps cropping up around this site?
 

larry Strong

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OBG = Kampfgruppe, worked pretty well for the Germans in WW2. Was that not also the way the Soviet MRR's and Tank Rgt's were configured?
 

PPCLI Guy

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Command-Sense-Act 105 said:
IThe ABG idea is workable on paper, but when push comes to shove there is a lot of robbing Peter to pay Paul in that situation.  While ABG will work when everyone is in garrison and training plans are deconflicted, it fall apart on large exercises (BTE) or when multiple deployments crop up, as suddenly the Sappers and Gunners find enough demands that they could easily clone themselves and still have units demanding their skills.

Herein lies the rub - we need to have FE ask for (and/or accept) that which we FG.  No one asks the Navy for 1 1/3 Frigates...
 

McG

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Command-Sense-Act 105 said:
The ABG idea is workable on paper, but when push comes to shove there is a lot of robbing Peter to pay Paul in that situation. 
That will be a problem of both OBG and ABG models until such time as there are enough PYs assigned (and filled) to the field force.

However, the ABG structure would allow extending the affiliations beyond the regular force.  I understand there was some examination of each regular infantry battalion having several affiliated reserve infantry units.  These reserve units would have a responsibity to force generate the fourth rifle company for every deployment.

PPCLI Guy said:
Herein lies the rub - we need to have FE ask for (and/or accept) that which we FG.  No one asks the Navy for 1 1/3 Frigates...
We are a part of this problem.  If you ask a dozen people what a BG looks like, you could easily get a dozen answers.  We have a doctrinal BG but the real army does not have the manpower to FG a doctrinal BG for any sustained period (and so we always invent something smaller for each deployment).  Is the doctrinal BG the right one?  I think it is close at the very least, but it may be lacking in many of the enabalers we are calling on in Afghanistan (CIMIC, PsyOps, Kingston assets, FAC, UAV Ops, etc).  We need to figure the worst case requirements & build our army to that (regardless of the ABG or OBG model).

If we do this & stick to a determined template, then the force employer can ask for 1 x BG.
 

retiredgrunt45

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The last almost full strength BG Canada had was in the late 70's upto the late 80's in Germany "4CMBG". Everything from then has been on paper only strength. Even in Germany we had to rob assets from other units in Canada to keep our numbers up, upto 1989, when the wall came down and we began sending assets back to Canada, preparing for the eventual closing of both Baden and Lahr in 92-93.

I can remember 3RCR's strength in Germany, in the early 80's being approx 850 strong. Upto when I retired in 01, we couldn't even make 1/2 that number.
 

TangoTwoBravo

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I'll be the arch-traditionalist and advocate "pure" units that get grouped together for operations.  The chain of command in a given "pure" unit can ensure that its given elements are trained to the right standard.  These pieces can then come together to train in preparation for operations.

While a Battle Groups seems to come together like a train wreck before deployment, as long as they have time to train together they can build the cohesion and knowledge of each other that is required.  That is built, however, on strong specific to corps foundations that are best developed, in my opinion, in the incubator of a pure unit.  I venture that mixed units would still get pulled apart and put back together again to meet the needs/constraints of a given mission.

With regards to doctrine, it turns out that we have some!

p.s. Guess I'm arguing for the"Non-Optimal Battle Group."  Oh well.
 

Cdn Blackshirt

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My civvie question:  I've always been told that it's essential to train as you fight.  With that in mind, is there any role-specific training in the ABG model that outweighs the cohesive training of the OBG model?  Specifically, can someone give me an example of ABG-based training that can only be done with like units (infantry with infantry and artillery with artiilery) that would prove critical in a battlefield situation that could not be taught in the OBG-model when training occurs with unlike units (infantry, arty, etc all within same battle group)?

Of note, my apologies in advance for any errors in my military vocabulary....


Matthew.  :salute:
 

TangoTwoBravo

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It may vary from arm to arm, but I would argue that everything from individual skills up to sub-unit level training.  While there are "platoon-groups" operations out there, I wouldn't necessarily call them the norm.  Looking at an armoured unit, the CO/RSM and his staff can train and mentor the squadrons, troops and crews in their fundamental branch skills.  They understand what standard is required for those skills and how best to build them.

Once that is done the various pieces of the battle group can come together.  As a tank squadron BC, I arrived at a given infantry battalion to conduct exercises in a squadron that had been trained by the CO and had had some time alone to get the basics squared away.  Similarly, as a tanker I don't know much about artillery except that I want lots of it.  I believe that the training and organizing of an artillery battery should be done under the auspices of an artillery CO.
 

McG

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Red_Five said:
I'll be the arch-traditionalist and advocate "pure" units that get grouped together for operations.  ...  Guess I'm arguing for the"Non-Optimal Battle Group."  Oh well.
This would be the ABG concept provided that each of the pure units were balanced to provide thier respective element to each of the BGs that the Bde would generate.

Cdn Blackshirt said:
... can someone give me an example of ABG-based training that can only be done with like [pure] units
EOD teams and armd engr sects are two entities that are required on operations but which would lack the critical mass to be self-sustaining in an OBG.  However, a CER (a pure unit) can maintain the critical mass.  One Armd Engr Tp has the critical mass to train & maintain its skills.  By establishing affiliations between the Armd Engr Sects & the CERs Fd Sqns, an Armd Engr Sect becomes available for each ABG through its affiliated sqn.

Perhapse someone from the infantry would like to comment on the mixed light/mech battalion & its impact on training.

 

a_majoor

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The OBG sounds a bit like a Mech Infantry battalion from the mid 1980's, with the Support Coy and Combat Support Coy expanded to battalion sized sub units in their own right. I suspect that the OBG is ideal in theory but would suffer from what Red _Five and others have pointed out; the specialist sub units would not have critical mass to develop and sustain thier skill sets.

What probably would work out best would be a hybrid arrangement, with the core OBG units living and training together as one, while the specialty units would be off to one side (as it were), with their platoon/troop/det "on call" for the OBG. The OBG's can be configured from the start to be "Cavalry", "Assault" or "Light", and this should not really affect the specialty skills like CIMIC, PSYOPS or EOD too much in this model.
 

a_majoor

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A cautionary tale about rice bowls.......

http://www.carlisle.army.mil/usawc/Parameters/01spring/dunn.htm

They could have been contenders, though!
 

Mountie

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The Regimental System aside, wouldn't the Optimal Battle Group be more effective.  The US Army has moved switched to the Combined Arms Battalion both in their current heavy forces and with their Future Combat System force structure.  The present Combined Arms Battalion has two mechanized infantry companies, two armoured companies, a combat engineer company and a headquarters company (mortar, recce and medical platoons) and it has a forward support company attached from the Brigade Support Battalion.  (Why they chose to form permanent combined arms battalions but remove the CSS company and attach it from the BSB is another issue.)  Some sources also indicated that the companies themselves are permanently organized as combined arms with to rifle platoons and a tank platoon in a mechanized infantry company and visa versa in the armoured company. The Future Combat System organization presently being put forward is a combined arms battalion with two mechanized rifle company, two armoured companies, a mortar battery, and a reconnaissance troop (troop is company-size in US cavalry terms).  At present there is no engineer unit anywhere within the FCS Brigade Combat Team.  Only unmanned ground vehicles equipped for some engineering tasks.  The US Army has also used the combined arms concept in its Armoured Cavalry Regiment for decades.  An armoured cavalry squadron consists of a headquarters company (CSS), three cavalry troops (company) with two reconnissance and two tank platoons, a tank company and an artillery battery.  It also had an affiliated engineer platoon.

I would think that an Optimal Battle Group that could live and train together on a daily basis would be a much more effect unit then an Affiliated Battle Group that is only pulled together for specific training.  With the exception of the cavalry regiment, the regimental system could be basically maintained even with the Optimal Battle Group.  Engineer squadrons and artillery batteries have more history than their regiments and could be independently attached to the battle group and maintain their tradition and history.  The CSS unit could be similarily maintained on a company basis.

 

Kirkhill

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First the good news:  Judging from this missive from Ft. Carlisle brainstorming that goes on here at Army.ca is as good as that that goes on in the most technologically advanced armed force in the world.

Now the bad news: Judging from this missive from Ft. Carlisle brainstorming that goes on here at Army.ca is as good as that that goes on in the most technologically advanced armed force in the world.

It seems that many folks on this site have looked at the same problems and come to same conclusions as many of the high paid help down south (and probably across the pond).

It also seems that the same counters have been identified and employed.  As are the same problems in institutions.

Here's a thought - maybe the biggest problem is the dammed accountants.

In their world of accountability it is necessary to track every dollar spent and every decision made.  From beginning to end everything must be tested and evaluated.  That requires that at the very outset of the process that final goals must be established.  At the end of the process goals must be met.

Most importantly, if, at the end of the process, goals have not been fully achieved then the process is deemed a failure and careers die.  A 95% solution is never good enough - much less a 70% solution.

That is probably why the GAO - General Accounting Office - is so dead set against the iterative development process - even in time of "war" (or high intensity operations if you prefer).

This article states that the final straw that broke the concept was the AGS becoming more like a tank and the Armoured Corps determined that if there was any tanking to be done the it would be done there way and done in their tanks.   As a result (along with pressure from Infantry on 3-man TOW teams - IIRC the CAR used two-man teams in their jeeps - and the Arty on indirect fire (hellfires for the Yanks, mortars for the Canucks)) the HTLD couldn't fully meet its design objectives.

On the other hand it met many of those objectives and probably achieved other capabilities previously unconsidered.  Had that force been implemented then commanders would have had a broader range of options available to them and still had the existing force structure to continue with its existing taskings AND be able to backstop the new formation.   If the HTLD needed some heavy support then give it to them.  Ship a troop of tanks to the Theater to work with them.

But then that would turn it from a George Patton battle into an Omar Bradley battle - and as most are aware it is George Patton that wins wars.

14,000 years ago people in modern Algeria were lining up in battle lines and shooting arrows at each other.  It makes you wonder if the GAO had been around at the time to join with the Union of Bowyers and Fletchers and the Corps of Archers whether or not that chap that jumped on a horse 4000 years ago in Scythia would ever have been permitted to deploy.
 

Kirkhill

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And Mountie, it is not the Regimental system per se.

The Regiment as developed by William of Nassau, Gustav Adolph and Talleyrand were all combined forces.  They mixed infantry with sword and pike, light artillery with muskets and heavier artillery with leather guns, grass guns and gallopers and equipped them uniformly, trained them to a common regime and then fought them in the field as a formed trained body.

The regiment grew out of the Spanish Tercios and even the mercenary Freelancers of the early renaissance.  These groups all operated, trained and lived together under one commander.  But they were armed with a variety of weapons.  Each man was trained to use his own weapon to its maximum capabilities, to rely on his mates with different weapons to protect him when his own weapon couldn't and to use his weapon to protect his mate.

All this "stovepiping" in modern armies may stem from a tendency to define the "essence" of particular elements in one word:
the bayonet - infantry
the sabre  - cavalry (or the horse, or the tank if you prefer)
the gun - arty
the flag, the drum, the trumpet, the horse, the radio, the satellite - sigs
the ship - navy
the aircraft - air force

And all of these inanimate objects were never more than tools that could be used to achieve a goal when used in cooperation with each other.

Interestingly the French tried to define the essence of infantry in terms of the amorphous elan - or fighting spirit.  They might have been on to something, because the one thing that keeps coming up over and over again on discussing Corps capabilities is the importance of mindset.  And the vehemence of the arguments as individual members of Corps defend their Corps suggests both that mindset is a very real factor in Corps operations AND that mindset is very hard, if not impossible to change.

Maybe mindset is the ultimate divider amongst Corps and Branches.  But if so how do you test for that amongst recruits and how does the GAO or Treasury Board measure how effectively such goal is being achieved.
 

George Wallace

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Kirkhill said:
First the good news:  Judging from this missive from Ft. Carlisle brainstorming that goes on here at Army.ca is as good as that that goes on in the most technologically advanced armed force in the world.

Now the bad news: Judging from this missive from Ft. Carlisle brainstorming that goes on here at Army.ca is as good as that that goes on in the most technologically advanced armed force in the world.

And the really bad news is that the brainstorming that goes on here at Army.ca is and/or has been unpaid.  Perhaps we could ask for some of those Taxpayer's Dollars to be sent our way.  ;D
 

Kirkhill

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Heckuva plan George.  Where do we line up for the cheques?  ;)
 

Old Sweat

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It seems to me that we have had experience with the optimal battle group concept. I am referring to the Canadian Airborne Regiment as it existed in Edmonton with its own battery and engineer squadron. The original organization also included an airborne reconnaisance squadron, but manpower cuts aborted it.

Speaking only as a gunner, the airborne battery was an excellent light battery, but it made a point of joining a field regiment for a practice camp once a year or more to exercise as part of larger gunner team. I suspect the engineers might, repeat might have done the same on their net.

What was the reason that the regiment was stripped of its supporting arms? I do not think it was because of any belief that the experiment failed, as opposed to falling out of the decision to move the unit to Petawawa and melding it into the SSF on its creation.

I am still not sure which way I would go, if anybody was misguided enough to ask me. That is why this debate is so interesting.
 
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