France’s War in Mali: Lessons for an Expeditionary Army

By on Friday, October 24th, 2014

French Army operations in Mali (Operation Serval) in 2013 provide a model for designing and operating an expeditionary force, one that has a number of attributes and competencies that United States Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno has indicated to be requirements for the Army.

The model therefore provides a living example that illustrates what meeting those requirements entails, as well as the associated risks. As “France’s War in Mali: Lessons for an Expeditionary Army” details, the French in Serval demonstrated that they are adept at quickly fielding small yet highly capable forces tailored for specific needs and objectives and reiteratively task organizing as the situation evolves. They have done so in part by pushing modularity below the battalion level, enabling them to disaggregate and reaggregate elements of their brigades.

The French have also invested in technologies and vehicles designed to enhance the capabilities of its units at all echelons. Moreover, the French Army, particularly its expeditionary brigades, is for all intents and purposes a regionally-aligned force that has a demonstrated ability to leverage its area-specific expertise to compensate for its small size and to work effectively with and among local populations.

The French Army also appears to have an operational culture well suited for expeditionary warfare, particularly in austere environments and with limited resources.

The aspects of French Army operations in Mali discussed in this report make the French Army a model for building the kind of expeditionary force envisioned by Odierno, and perhaps one that is also increasingly in line with future United States Army budgets. The French example also highlights compromises that are associated with becoming more expeditionary and the attendant risks.

KEY FINDINGS

Operation Serval Provides an Example of How a Technologically Sophisticated Army Organizes and Fields an Expeditionary Force.

  • The French Army exhibits many of the traits outlined by General Raymond Odierno in his vision of the future force.
  • The French Army in Mali operated using small, scalable, and task-organized combined arms forces and built them up or folded them into larger, scalable formations.

French Requirements and Resource Limitations Have Led the Army to Adopt a Force Structure Well Suited for Operations Such as Serval.

  • The French use relatively lightly armored wheeled vehicles, which have smaller sustainment requirements compared with heavier, tracked vehicles.
  • The French prefer mobility over protection, a choice that reflects their cultural and doctrinal emphasis on maneuver.
  • The French Army draws on an expeditionary culture, which reportedly makes coping with austerity a point of pride and also reinforces certain approaches toward operating among local populations.

The French Way of War Represented by Serval Might Not Be Optimal for U.S. Commanders, Who Have Greater Resources at Their Disposal.

  • Those resources enable Americans to minimize risk in a manner that the French cannot.
  • Serval does not shed light on France’s capacity to handle more-intense conventional conflicts or provide conventional deterrent power.
  • The French are confident that their success on the battlefield and low casualty rate demonstrate the proficiency of their military, but they took large risks.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The Army should examine the French experience for additional insights, including in the following areas:

  • the advisability of reducing protection and fielding lighter vehicles to enhance mobility and reduce sustainment requirements, and in particular the introduction of a vehicle with the weight, protection level, and firepower of the VBCI
  • the potential advantages and costs of pushing modularity below the brigade level to facilitate battalion and company-sized combined arms deployments
  • the impact of digitization on small-unit operations
  • the integration of intelligence into lower-echelon operations
  • training to enable company commanders to conduct decentralized, combined arms operations and practice mission command
  • French insights into training and interoperating with West African and Sahelian security forces
  • the costs of France’s rotational equipping strategy (PEGP) and its effect on readiness.

France’s War in Mali: Lessons for an Expeditionary Army (43 downloads)

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India test-fires first home-made cruise missile

India successfully test-fired its first domestically built nuclear-capable long-range cruise missile Friday, marking another step in building up the country´s defence prowess.

The “Nirbhay”, or “fearless”, missile blasted off from a mobile launcher at the Integrated Missile Test Range in Chandipur in the eastern state of Orissa, the Press Trust of India reported.

“The trial was totally successful,” a senior government official associated with the launch told the Press Trust of India national news agency.

“The outcome of the trial was ascertained by analyzing the data retrieved from radars and telemetry points,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Unlike other ballistic missiles, Nirbhay has a wing and tail fins. The missile is intended to cruise like an aircraft, helped by its small fins, and can be launched from land, sea and air.

The surface-to-surface missile is fitted with a turbojet engine and is capable of flying at low altitudes to avoid detection. It can even hover near the target, striking from any direction without being seen on radar.

With a range of up to 1,000 kilometers (600 miles), it gives India the capability to strike “deep into enemy territory”, NDTV news network reported.

The Nirbhay is regarded by military experts as India´s version of the US Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Friday´s success comes after the subsonic missile´s first test launch in March 2013 had to be aborted midway after it veered off course.

India, which shares borders with arch-rivals Pakistan and giant China, both of which are nuclear-armed, is developing the missile system to strengthen its air-defence capabilities.

India already has in its arsenal the supersonic BrahMos missile which it developed jointly with Russia.

India in 2012 successfully launched its nuclear-capable Agni V ballistic missile with a range of more than 5,000 kilometers.

The Indian military views the Agni V missile as a key boost to its regional power aspirations and one that narrows — albeit slightly — its huge gap with China´s technologically advanced missile systems.

While the shorter-range Agni I and II were mainly developed with India´s traditional rival Pakistan in mind, later versions with longer range reflect the shift in India´s military focus towards China.

Just last month, Indian government scientists were in the news for winning Asia´s race to Mars when its unmanned Mangalyaan spacecraft successfully entered the Red Planet´s orbit after a 10-month journey on a tiny budget.


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Britain to re-deploy drones from Afghanistan to Iraq

By on Friday, October 17th, 2014

Britain will shortly begin re-deploying its unmanned armed drones from Afghanistan to counter Islamic State jihadists in Iraq, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told parliament on Thursday.

The remotely-piloted Reaper aircraft will provide surveillance, reconnaissance and intelligence support to the Iraqi troops and international coalition forces taking on the IS group in northern Iraq.

The drones can also launch bombs and missiles.

It will be the first time Britain has deployed Reapers outside Afghanistan, where Britain is completing a pull-out of combat troops this year.

“We are in the process of re-deploying some of our Reaper remotely-piloted aircraft from Afghanistan to the Middle East,” Hammond said.

Britain already has eight Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado fighter jets conducting bombing raids on Islamic State targets in Iraq.

“Approximately 20-30 percent of Iraq’s populated territory could be under ISIL control. Liberating this territory from ISIL is a medium term challenge, to be measured in months and years, not days and weeks,” Hammond said.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “The surveillance capability of Reaper will see it provide vital situational awareness, making it an invaluable asset to the Iraqi government and the coalition allies.

“If strike operations are required then Reaper has the ability to complement the sorties RAF Tornados have already completed.”

The US-made Reapers are normally armed with two Paveway laser-guided bombs and four Hellfire missiles for precision strikes.

The Ministry of Defence also said a small group of British infantry have completed a week training the Kurdish forces fighting extremists in using the heavy machine guns Britain gave them last month.


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Tender for 56 Indian Naval Choppers Scrapped

By on Monday, October 20th, 2014

A tender for procuring 56 naval helicopters from abroad at an estimated cost of Rs 9,000 crore was on Tuesday scrapped by the Defence Ministry which decided to get them manufactured in India by local players with foreign collaboration.

This is the third helicopter tender in the recent months to have been scrapped by the government since the cancellation of Rs 3600 crore VVIP chopper deal with Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland in the wake of bribery allegations on January one this year.

The tender for procuring 56 Naval Utility Helicopters has been scrapped and a fresh acquisition process would be initiated where these choppers would be made in the country involving Indian manufacturers who will be allowed to partner with the foreign vendors, Defence Ministry sources told PTI here.

Two contenders were in the race for this Rs 9,000 crore tender including the European Airbus Helicopters and AgustaWestland and they have been intimated about the decision, the sources said.

The Navy had plans of using these choppers for replacing its aging fleet of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters, which have been in service for over 30-35 years.

The tender was issued two years ago by the Navy for procuring twin-engine choppers and was sent to major chopper makers including US firm Sikorsky, Eurocopter, Kamov and Italy’s Agusta Westland.

In the tender, the Navy has specified that the 4.5 tonne helicopters should have twin-engines to allow them to operate in rough sea conditions.


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Royal Air Force Now Flying Their Most Advanced Fighter Jets Ever

By on Monday, October 20th, 2014

The Royal Air Force’s (RAF) most advanced fighters ever are now in operational service following the largest ever fighter upgrade programme delivered by BAE Systems.

Known as Phase 1 Enhancements (P1E), the upgrade package delivers a range of enhancements to the Typhoon aircraft. Developed by BAE Systems working together with its Eurofighter Partner companies, the RAF and UK Ministry of Defence, (MOD), the capabilities introduced have been developed on the back of operations in Libya, and cement Typhoon’s place as a world class multi-role fighter.

The aircraft upgrades include enhanced computing power, weapons systems integration advancements and improved sensor suites making Typhoon even more potent whether tasked with air-to-air work, air-to-surface or a combination of both during a single mission. The P1E enhancements package delivers much more flexibility in mission planning. It allows a single pilot, in a single aircraft to simultaneously attack six different targets in one pass.

Royal Air Force Now Flying Their Most Advanced Fighter Jets EverDivided into two elements, Phase 1 Enhancements (a) and Phase 1Enhancements (b), the latter takes the multi-role concept to a new level. Typhoon Requirements Manager, Wing Commander Stephen Williams said: “P1Eb allows Typhoon to begin realising its air-to-surface capability while also delivering in the air-to-air arena. Our ability to switch between air-to-air and air-to-surface modes is a big step, providing great flexibility for our pilots on Operations. This is a key step to delivering capability for the UK’s Interim Force 15.”

The PE1b package also brings upgrades for the aircraft’s Defensive Aids Sub System and the latest interoperability updates for the Multifunction Information and Distribution Systems, which together ensure the Typhoon remains one of the most effective aircraft in the skies.

Testing of the P1E package was conducted through a combined industry and MOD team. Martin Taylor, Director for Combat Air at BAE Systems said: “P1E is a massive leap forward in capability and by working jointly as one team, we’ve ensured that there are no surprises when it enters service. We have delivered a capability with all the necessary training and support to make sure it is ready and usable from day one.”

The first 17 P1E standard aircraft are now in service with the RAF with a further 18 to be delivered by 1st April 2015.


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US military’s robot space plane lands back on Earth

A top secret US robot space plane landed back on Earth on Friday after a 22-month orbit, officials said, although the craft’s mission remains shrouded in mystery.

The unmanned X-37B, which looks like a miniature space shuttle, glided into the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California after having launched on December 11, 2012, on a mission that military officers say is still strictly secret.

“I’m extremely proud of our team for coming together to execute this third safe and successful landing, said commander Keith Balts of the US military’s 30th Space Wing, after the 9:24 am (1624 GMT) landing.

Analysts say the X-37B could be a platform for spying from space, including possibly snooping on other countries’ satellites.

But officials have previously denied the project had anything to do with creating a “space weapon” that could knock down other satellites.

The Air Force says the X-37B can test technology for “reusable” spacecraft and conduct unspecified experiments that can be studied on Earth.

The latest mission was the third and the longest so far for the vehicle. An initial flight launched in 2010 lasted about eight months and a second flight had the spacecraft in orbit for more than 15 months.

The X-37B, manufactured by aerospace giant Boeing, weighs five tonnes and measures about 29 feet (8.8 meters) long, with a wing span of roughly 15 feet across.

Traveling at speeds 25 times faster than the speed of sound, the vehicle is launched into space on the back of a rocket and, once its mission is complete, returns from orbit like a plane.

But, unlike NASA’s civilian shuttle, it has two stabilizers in the rear instead of one, forming a “V” shape.


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Russia to Create Space-Based Ballistic Missile Warning System

By on Monday, October 20th, 2014

Russia will create a space-based ballistic missile warning system capable of detecting launches of existing and test missiles, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Thursday.

“The creation of an integrated space system is one of the key directions in which Russian nuclear deterrent forces will be developed.

“As a result, we will be able to detect sea and ground launches of various types of ballistic missiles, including prototypes,” Shoigu said.

According to the defense minister, the system will replace Soviet-made ballistic missile early warning systems.

The integrated space system will comprise next-generation space vehicles and modernized space centers that would ensure control over the satellites and allow for automatic information processing.


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