The failure of Modern Combined Force Tactics
I am by no means a tactician or even taken a class on Tactics. I have played plenty of war games, both table top and computer based, studied history (and thus war,) quite extensively, and able to apply a healthy dose of common sense.
Every military unit from the pikeman to the modern Unmanned Aerial Vehicles both has it’s strengths and it’s weaknesses on the battlefield. As such one unit may have advantages over another, especially in certain situations. For instance Knights on horseback can easily win against a superior number of swordsmen due to their speed and weight.
But pikemen with the long reach of their weapons can easily blunt a calvary charge, removing the Knights advantage. In turn, without the advantage of shields, Pikemen are extremely vulnerable to the various types of bowmen, especially those wielding the English Longbow.
In Combined Force Tactics, each element lends it’s strengths while it’s weaknesses are covered by the other elements. In the example above a typical army would consist of one of each of the elements. The Knights on horseback would be used as flanking force instead of initial charges. Pikemen on the front would have either swordsmen or bows directly behind them depending on the terrain and the forces available to the enemy.
Basically the swordsmen with their shields would be at the front of the battle. The brunt of any bow attacks would (mostly) bounce off their shields. As the armies closed, the swordsmen would pass through the front lines behind the pikemen and then counter attack from the side. In the meantime the Knights would be circling around to the rear or the other side to encircle the enemy and hopefully defeat them.
During World War I, troops with machine guns faced each other across open land and dug themselves into trenches. Artillery that had been so useful in previous wars did little when the infantry was dug in. The introduction of airplanes added little to the battle itself, but quickly became an important component as commanders were able to better see where the enemy troops were. The introduction of the tank changed trench warfare again as the tracked vehicles simply went through and over defenses designed to stop humans.
In the modern Military there are many more elements, but the essence is the still same. Soldiers on the ground can only carry so much firepower and see so far. Tanks can carry vastly more firepower, but are limited by the terrain. Airplanes carry less firepower, but have the ability to provide an extremely fast response to threats, and provide superior suppression fire with their speed and height above the ground. There are many more elements in a modern Military force, but for now these three remain the main ones.
The UAV or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle is both one of the most hated and most loved weapons currently in use. It’s a great weapon to keep soldiers and pilots out of direct harms. The UAVs original purpose was to be an intelligence gathering mechanism only. With the added ability to carry missiles and coupled with a lack of proper tactics, we now see failure and tragedy.
The current over reliance on UAVs the US Military is failing to properly utilize Combined Force Tactics in Afghanistan, Iraq, and especially Pakistan. They are being used to gather intelligence correctly, but then attack targets with. This often leads to devastating results and loss in innocent lives.
While the terrain in such areas makes tanks and wheeled vehicles extremely impractical, the lack of a human component on the ground leads to mistakes that have effects far beyond the initial consequences. Instead of changing tactics, more technology is thrown at the problem.
Now, the loss of one UAV doesn’t even compare to the loss of one human life. But the UAV’s indiscriminate ability to kill, and worse, misjudge a situation that is only viewable from the air above, seems like it leads to just as much innocent life lost.
On a normal battlefield between two armies, UAVs would probably stand out fairly well as extremely useful weapons, especially combined with other elements such as Infantry, Tanks, Missiles, and other Aircraft. But with an enemy that uses the terrain, innocent people, misdirection and local knowledge to hide, they become fairly useless in their secondary role as weapon platforms. Doubly so when they’re the only weapon deployed.