U.S. Army, Air Force working to enhance their ability to fight in a contested environment

After years of fighting low-intensity conflicts against lightly-armed insurgents, the U.S. military is reorienting itself to fight and defeat a peer- or near-peer competitor.

In the coming months, the Training and Doctrine Command will meld with Air Combat Command to stage three exercises between March and July to hone their joint warfighting concepts.

The first two exercises “will address individually three of the five operational problems in Multi-Domain Battle. The final exercise will address all three problems comprehensively,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Odom, director of the Concept Development and Learning Directorate within the Army Capabilities Integration Center.

One defense industry report noted:

The five operational problems, as defined by TRADOC, involve the joint force’s ability to: deter escalation of violence, defeat destabilizing operations and convert denied spaces into contested spaces; maneuver from distance with sufficient power; conduct deep maneuver to suppress to destroy indirect fires and air defense systems; enable ground force success in close-area operations; and consolidate gains, establish long-term deterrence and adapt to the new environment.

Col. Michael Runey, division chief for joint and Army concept development at ARCIC, told ITA the exercises will address the second, third and fourth problems, which TRADOC and ACC have deemed “the most important problems to address Army and Air Force integration and convergence.”

The services have developed 13 initiatives on which to base their collaboration, which Odom described as “a deliberate echo of the Army-Air Force 31 initiatives of the 1980s, which provided a framework for the services to jointly build the capabilities necessary for AirLand Battle.”

Odom said the exercises are intended to “inform and help refine” the unnamed initiatives, which Runey characterized as “pre-decisional.” [Source: “Joint exercises to inform Multi-Domain Battle concept update,” Inside Defense, Feb. 6, 2018.

Analysis: More evidence that the Pentagon has realized just how much peer-competitor warfighting tactics and skills have eroded. Previous reporting indicated that U.S. military observers have come to some stark realizations about U.S. military combat readiness after spending some time in Ukraine, where enemies face off with armor, long-range artillery, anti-tank missiles, and other heavy weapons.

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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