The FMF: An alternative future and how to get there

by BGen F. P. Henderson - published July 1971

"One of the more common human failings is the tendency to react to new phenomena with old reflexes" - James Donovan.

Charles Kettering, the famous inventor, once said, "We should all be concerned about the future because we will have to spend the rest of our lives there." Today, there is a swiftly growing recognition that we must do more than just be concerned about the future. We must actively plan for the future we want and then direct and control the forces which either aid or thwart its realization. In no element of society is the need for sure, keen perception and judgment in this task more acute than in its military forces. For here, failure is measured in the ultimate absolutes of life or death, for men on the battlefield and for the nation they serve.

But planning for the military future at this point in history is no longer relatively simple and uncomplicated. In the past, when change in the worlds of both peace and war was measured in centuries, the soldier could look to his historical past for safe and reliable guidance for the future. Now change in all of society's elements, institutions, beliefs and values is often so broad in scope, drastic in nature and rapid in rate that it is no longer apodictic that the past is prologue to the future. In an ever-increasing degree, the soldier must turn from that which is "tried and true," and from the comforts of personal and institutional experience, and look to the emerging future itself for guidance if he is to master it and be in harmony with it

To explore and plan for a future "seen through a glass darkly" is a difficult, perplexing and hazardous venture. But, because it is hazardous, it is also challenging, exhilarating and, above all, requires courage. These qualities make it an undertaking this generation of Marines should welcome and in which they should excel-as did their predecessors in the equally epic venture of the amphibious assault.

Like that bold enterprise, this one must be undertaken by the whole community of Marines. It cannot be entrusted to a small group whose current duty assignment puts them in an organization box labeled "Future FMF" or "Long Range Concept" for two reasons. First, the magnitude of effort required in both unfettered thought and pragmatic experiment is beyond the capability of such a group and would also eliminate non-group individuals as an abundant and prolific source of contributing effort. Second, any change of significance proposed by a small select group, even if it is of high merit and validity, is likely to be rejected by the Corps as a professional body if it is alien to its collectively held beliefs-as happened in the late 1940s in the case of the short-lived "J" Tables of Organization. Changes in the fundamental beliefs and doctrines of military institutions are achieved by group consensus, not authoritarian edict. This approval can be achieved only through widespread group involvement and participation in the process of change.

If the design and building of the future FMF is to be an all-hands exercise, how does the individual Marine officer or enlisted man prepare himself for his role of originator, judge or critic? As of right now, he is on his own. Headquarters Marine Corps has not yet published a directive on how to think about the future, or given the imprimaturs to what is permissible or verboten. The recently born and rapidly growing interdisciplinary group of professional futurists is still searching for agreed-upon methodologies of universal application.

I think this is a fortunate condition. There are no constraints on freedom of inquiry, and the individual is not obliged to conform to the thought processes of other men. However, for those who are probing the complex and fascinating world of future combat for the first time, it might be helpful to have an example of one attempt to delineate one alternative future for the FMF. (Hint-professional futurists never talk about the future, but about "alternative futures," thereby revealing either an admission of human fallibility, or unwillingness to make a hard choice, or too many uncertain factors in the equation to get an unambiguous answer.)

What follows is such an example, started some time ago and still in progress. Hopefully, it will illustrate the necessary combination of fact, conjecture, reasoning, judgment and synthesis necessary to such a foray. The mood is tutorial and imperative, but doubting Thomases are welcome. When you have finished with it and are ready to solo on your own, I hope you can do better.

Guidelines and Goals

To insure the greatest possible freedom of inquiry, while at the same time providing direction and boundaries, the following simple guidelines were established at the beginning. First, nothing is sacred. No present FMF functional or organizational element, operational role or mission, tactical doctrine, weapon or other hardware rates a place in the future FMF because of its past glories or present utility. It must conclusively demonstrate that it belongs in the future, in either its present or an altered form.

Second, fantasy and Buck Rogers are out. The subject is the future FMF in which today's career Marines will be serving after another promotion or two. It is the future that is explicit and attainable within that time frame and not the distant utopia of anti-gravity belts, death-ray pistols and extra-sensory perception and communication. All postulated weapons and hardware must be derived from a firm current scientific and technical base, allowing enough time to carry through the (too-long) R&D process. Ample time must also be allowed for analysis, debate, experiment and actual change on new concepts of tactical doctrine and force organization. The time span to do this will naturally vary for each element of the FMF. I think it could be done for all in about 10 years if the effort is focussed and intense. So we are talking about the FMF of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Third, the objective sought is simply a future FMF that is better at its mission of tactical combat than any contemporary force in the world; superior in equipment, organization and operational doctrine and tactics. It must achieve this while retaining its hallmark of a force that is versatile and flexible, can do more with less and is ready to take on anybody, anywhere, anytime, under any ground rules. (The last item is a recent complicating add-on to the familiar "as the President may direct" that is probably here to stay.)

The infantry was selected as the initial subject of inquiry. It is now the central, pivotal, combat element of the FMF and probably will remain so during the time we are considering. As long as this is true, the improvement of its effectiveness is of priority concern to all. If the infantry does not succeed in its assigned tactical mission, the whole force effort fails, regardless of successes by other force elements. Only when its future capabilities, limitations, and modus operandi are established can intelligent consideration be given to the nature and role of the many other force elements that operate with and in support of the infantry and their relationship to it.

In striving to achieve a major increase in the combat effectiveness of the infantry, it is desirable to state at the outset a list of goals whose attainment would result in such a gain. These goals serve to focus thought on the central issues where advance produces the greatest reward and prevents interesting but peripheral issues from receiving unwarranted attention. There must be a reasonable foreknowledge that the goals set are in the realm of the possible, both conceptually and technically, to avoid excursions into the unreal and the abstract. I think the following are the goals of overriding importance at this time. Their scope includes all aspects of combat operations that are critical to mission accomplishment by the infantry:

  • Greater ability to sense the total operating environment. As an animate combat entity, an infantry unit's effectiveness and survival depend on its ability to sense and discriminate among the natural objects, civil artifacts, and friendly and enemy military forces in its operational area. Because its tactical actions are in direct response to these sensory inputs, gains in their quantity, quality and timeliness will improve the system performance.
  • Improved firepower employment capability and resources. The use, or threatened use, of weapons is the final and decisive act of conflict. As the principal user of all forms of firepower, the infantry must have the competence and means to make firepower decisions and apply organic and supporting firepower swiftly and efficiently. Employment concepts, practices and weapons that combine to give improved speed of response, certainty of desired effect and a reduced logistic burden are vital to gaining an inherent combat advantage over an opposing force.
  • Improved sense-evaluate-decide-act process. This operational process is the essential antecedent of every tactical action, from the individual rifleman to the highest command echelon. In tactical units, its effectiveness is governed by the organizational structure, command and staff procedures and techniques, and the communication system. Improvements in these elements that increase the process speed and quality will give greater system effectiveness.

Infantry Mission and Trends

To unify the many specific efforts in the areas of doctrine, organization and hardware required to achieve these goals, it is necessary to state what the infantry's mission should be in the 1980 time period. Analysis of the present Marine infantry mission of "To locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, or to repel his assault by fire and close combat" reveals that it is not appropriate for the future and, in fact, no longer accurately describes the scope and nature of current infantry operations. This mission of individual close combat is but little changed from that of the Roman infantry of two millennia ago, "In hostes incursare ipsosque ad unum omnes occidere munus peditum est." (To close with the enemy and to slaughter him to the last man is the duty of the infantry.)

Both of these mission statements are really ex post facto descriptions of what infantry traditionally did on the battlefield-fight the opposing infantry. Modern infantry doctrine is rooted in the 19th century when armies were composed primarily of infantrymen, and the terms infantryman and rifleman were synonymous. Infantry combat was thus a fight between opposing riflemen. While defending riflemen might repel attacking riflemen by fire alone, personal combat was often necessary. However, attacking riflemen could succeed only through an assault and close combat, or, by the imminent threat of an assault, cause the opposing infantry to retreat or surrender.

So it was a durable and valid mission until the close of World War I. Since then, however, the introduction of new warfare concepts and the accelerating pace and broadening scope of technological innovation have so changed the nature of ground combat that corresponding change in the traditional mission of infantry was inevitable and had, in fact, already occurred, albeit without formal recognition.

I think a trend analysis is the best and most reliable projection technique to use in arriving at a credible future mission statement. This requires the identification of those major trends in warfare and infantry operations that have affected infantry evolution and operations from World War I to the present and will continue to do so through 1980 and beyond. Recognition of and foresighted action on such trends enables us to change the historic pattern of evolution by reaction (preparing to fight the last war better) to one of directed evolution (anticipation) to meet future requirements. It further prevents our present inventive precocity and fecundity from randomly shaping (or deforming) infantry operations and organizations. Rather, it permits us to harness and guide invention to achieve desirable concepts and goals. Both the long term and recent trends which I think we must recognize and control to our advantage are shown in Figure 1.

The first of these trends that require a reexamination of the infantry's mission is the continuing increase in the number and nature of enemy force elements that are threats to the infantry and thereby are targets which must be engaged and defeated in accomplishing the infantry mission. The eight families of present threats in Figure 2 actually represent about 25 separate functional or organizational entities. The salient feature of these threat/target families is that most of them cannot be countered by infantry "close with and destroy" tactics. (How do you do it to CAS aircraft or helicopter gunships? Who wants to do it with tanks?) Further, engagement and defeat of this class of targets increasingly requires the use of advanced technology/equipment and weapons, not just rifles, and major participation by non-infantry combat elements.

As a reaction to the changing threat/target nature, there has been a steady increase in the types and numbers of infantrymen whose duties do not involve close combat. As a result of this growing diversity in infantrymen, weapons and equipment, an infantry unit is no longer a homogeneous body of close combat riflemen but a cohesive aggregate of numerous specialists necessary to defeat a modern enemy force. These may be divided into four main groupings as shown in Figure 3, which is a composite of both Marine and Army current infantry battalions. The first group is the men who combat other men at close ranges; the second, those who combat ground and air vehicles, fortified positions and men at longer ranges with direct and indirect fire crew weapons; the third, those whose duty is not combat but to provide the intelligence, communications and logistic support necessary to the successful conduct of combat operations; and finally, the command leaders and their assistants who plan and direct operations. In both the Marine and Army battalions, the number of men devoted exclusively to close combat is now about 50 per cent, depending on how you classify certain individuals. By contrast, the World War I Marine infantry battalion (Tables of Sept. 1, 1918), was the essence of a close combat force. Its 1,036 officers and men fought with 900 bolt-action rifles (and bayonets), 64 automatic rifles and 328 pistols. (There were also 2 horses, 60 mules and 8 bicycles.) The battalion headquarters totalled a miniscule 4 officers and 14 enlisted men, and the 2 horses for the CO and Exec.

Over the last several decades, there has been a steady increase in the combat capabilities of each infantry echelon, both in scope and degree. This has resulted from doctrinal changes made possible by technological advance. In practically all cases, weapons and equipment now found at any echelon from the platoon up were initially introduced at a higher echelon. But demonstrated need for the item at a lower echelon stimulated R&D to produce an item with the physical and performance characteristics required by the lower echelon. This usually involved reduction in size and weight, increased ruggedness and maintainability, and simplified operation. The history of radio communication from World War I to the present illustrates this action. Then, division headquarters was the lowest echelon with a radio. Now, the squad radio is here and the individual radio just around the corner-if you want it.

As a result, the aggregate combat power of any infantry unit is now significantly greater than it was at the end of World War I. It can dominate a much larger terrain area, engage a larger portion of the threat spectrum and be more responsive to its commander's plans and decisions. Until now, this increase of unit capabilities has, except for radio communications, resulted from advances in conventional ordnance technology, a slow, incremental process.

While training manuals may extol the virtues of "eyeball-to-eyeball" combat and the "spirit of the bayonet," their audience has always thought there must be a better and less risky way to eliminate an opponent. The longest and most enduring of all military trends has been that of standoff combat. Ardant du Picq recognized this a century ago in his now classic Battle Studies when he said, "To fight from a distance is instinctive in man. From the first day he has worked to this end, and he continues to do so."

The descriptive terms "close combat" and "stand-off combat" are relative and vary with time and the conflict environment. To the Roman legionary, close combat meant closing with the enemy until he could use his 20-inch short sword. To him, today's concept of close combat would be the ultimate in stand-off combat. The distance values associated with close or stand-off combat will also vary between Vietnam, Central Europe, the Middle East or a major city.

In modem times, and especially since World War II, there has been a concerted if unstated effort by land, sea and air forces, both strategic and general-purpose, to acquire the capability to engage and defeat the enemy at the greatest practicable range. This effort has focused on developing both target sensors and weapons that can detect or attack the enemy at greater distances and with greater certainty of acquisition and kill. In limited-war forces the effective range of tank guns has increased by a factor of two or three. With the introduction of the French 75mm gun, the field artillery left the infantry battle line to go behind defilade and has been increasing its range ever since. In tactical aircraft, machine guns and bombs have or are being replaced with cannon, rockets or guided missiles, and this same evolution is already taking place in armed helicopters.

While the effective range of the infantry rifle and machine gun have not increased, the range of the hand grenade has increased through adoption of the grenade launcher. But of major importance is the introduction of new families of weapons that both tactically and technically are stand-off in nature-the mortar, rocket launcher, recoilless rifle and guided missile. In these weapons there has been a continual development effort to increase range. 

Figure 4 illustrates the extent of change since World War I in the basic infantry tactical unit, the rifle platoon, due to the three trends just discussed. It is quickly apparent that it is no longer just a rifle platoon-it is an infantry platoon. Its ability to engage the enemy, to conduct stand-off combat and to control terrain have all been enlarged. This has been achieved while the size of the platoon has decreased by 25 per cent and the number of riflemen has been reduced by 44 per cent. The ratio of men armed with the rifle has dropped from 91 per cent to 68 per cent. (The Marine WW I platoon also had 59 men with 53 rifles, 4 BAR and 18 pistols. Today's Marine rifle platoon is still more rifleman-close-combat-oriented than is the Army platoon.)

I think the last of the five trends is the most important one by far in its impact on what future infantry will be like and how it will fight. This is particularly true in the case of electronic technology which offers a potential for growth in infantry operational capabilities orders of magnitude greater than that achieved in the past 30 years through advances in conventional ordnance technology.

 Since World War II advanced electronic technology has had a profound impact on the mission accomplishment methods and capabilities of all elements of our armed forces-except for the ground close combat forces. Close combat forces still execute their missions much as they did at the end of World War II and with very little additional electronics (Figure 5). Other elements have quickly exploited electronic state-of-the-art advances and often stimulated those advances through their stated requirements for new combat capabilities. This poses the question of why the infantry lags so far behind the others in this respect. It is because present or forecast electronic technology cannot make a meaningful contribution to infantry combat operations? Is it because the present or prospective electronic systems and devices that could aid the infantry are inappropriate for the rigorous infantry combat environment? Is it because no centrally directed and sustained effort has been made to adapt and utilize advanced electronic technology to the benefit of the infantry? Or is it because of institutional conservatism and resistance to change?

An abundance of technological forecasts indicates that the answer to the first two questions is partially "No" now and emphatically "No" by 1980. The answer to the third and fourth questions must be "Yes." The infantry is low man on the totem pole in large part because there has been no "advanced weapon system" concept to stimulate both the interest of the technical community and the flow of Department of Defense dollars. (Think of what you could do for the infantry with the talent and money levels of programs like Polaris, ABM, F-111, SAM-D or Cheyenne!)

Finally, far too many grunts of all ages and ranks have been distrustful of anything new which would replace something "tried and true." This attitude was succinctly expressed in 1591 when the British Army was considering adopting firearms. Col Sir John Smyth, who opposed this heretic action, wrote to the Privy Council, "The bow is a simple weapon: firearms are very complicated things which get out of order in many ways-a very heavy weapon that tires out soldiers on the march." (I can remember when arguments of this nature were vehemently advanced to oppose replacing the M1903 rifle with the M-1.) Fortunately, the last decade has seen a marked change in this attitude. Growing numbers of infantrymen are willing to make an open-minded judgment on anything new offered to help them in their complex, difficult, and perilous mission.

If these infantry trends are now combined with the meaningful trends occurring in other FMF operational functions and force elements, and then projected against probable future combat environments and FMF employment, I think that the mission statement which best describes the most desirable infantry role in present and future conflicts is:

The combat mission of the infantry is to engage and defeat the enemy through the coordinated execution of the following combat actions:

  • Detect, identify, and locate hostile elements
  • Direct the fire of organic and supporting weapons on such elements
  • Close combat

This mission broadens the purpose for which the infantry is on the battlefield from the present traditional and simplistic "close with and destroy" mission to one which gives it a greater involvement in and direction of the larger spectrum of combat actions conducted against the enemy's forward elements. This course is mandatory to achieve a timely best-choice response to battlefield situations and realize the integrated tactical effort called for in the future. The infantry's unique role as the combat element which does have direct, sustained contact with the enemy in any type of conflict or environment makes it the logical command/coordination focal point for the ever-growing diversity of actions and agencies employed against the forces opposing it.

The mission further recognizes that in midand low-intensity conflicts, to defeat an enemy is more in consonance with present and future political objectives and constraints than to destroy him-and often may accomplish the military task sooner and at less cost. As evidenced by the connotations of defeat and destroy given in Roget's Thesaurus, defeat describes the methods the skilled professional soldier uses, either strategically or tactically. It is the hallmark of the classic campaigns and battles of the great captains of history. Destroy aptly describes the unimaginative resort to brute force for every military task. It recalls the futile slaughter of infantrymen in World War I, the random devastation of cities by strategic bombing in World War II, or the routine use of mass conventional firepower that has characterized much of the combat in Vietnam.

The existing sole mandate to "close with" the enemy is reduced to one of three combat responsibilities to be vested in the infantry. Close combat is listed last in the three mission elements to emphasize that it should be avoided rather than sought and, that when it is unavoidable, it must be preceded and accompanied by intense efforts in the other two mission elements. Future infantry capabilities must include major gains in the ability to wage stand-off combat to both hasten the defeat of the enemy and reduce friendly casualties.

The proposed infantry mission may be summarized as a "search and attack" mission. The priority requirement is to find the enemy. This is done through stand-off "sense and maneuver" tactics made possible by advanced electronic devices and increased tactical mobility through helicopter/VTOL aircraft. Successful search is followed by attack using fire and maneuver tactics. In the attack, stand-off organic or supporting weapons are normally employed as the first choice, with assault by riflemen as the final option. In some low intensity situations, attack by riflemen may be the preferred choice with a minimum of supporting weapon attack.

Future Conflict Environment

Before starting to conceive and design the best possible Marine infantry to carry out this mission, we should endeavor to determine where it will operate and whom it must defeat. There is a high probability that the range of geographic and climatic environments in which Marine infantry will operate in the future will be as great as has been encountered in its historical past. It also seems likely that more often than not the environment would be classed as adverse for the forces of an advanced-economy, temperatezone nation such as the United States. The only areas where deployment does not seem likely are the two polar regions. The infantry of the 1980s must thus be able to fight effectively in local environments which are some combination of the following: level, rolling, hilly or mountainous terrain which may be open, semi-open or forested; having a dry or wet, cold or hot climate with varying seasonal characteristics; in a rural or urban area of a nation whose state of economic and facility development is in the spread between backward and advanced. This assumption is empirically validated by the full spectrum of environments in which Marine forces have operated in combat, readiness deployments or maneuvers during and since World War II. The most likely change from past experience is that more combat will be in urban areas.

The Marine infantry of the future must also be prepared to meet a spectrum of diversity in opposing forces and conflict situations as great as that expected in the operating environment. It may face opponents ranging in type from guerrilla bands and rioting urban populations to the regular military forces of a nation. In size and composition, the latter may range from small, light infantry units to forces of division size and larger with supporting tactical air. In some cases, all, or part, of their weapons and other equipment may be as technologically advanced as that of FMF infantry and its supporting elements. More often, most of their equipment will be in varying stages of obsolesence, but still effective when used by well-trained troops. In cases where the opposing force relies on combat and support machines and devices of all types for its combat power, these become the primary targets to be found, attacked and defeated. In other instances, the enemy will rely on manpower, with a minimum of machines and devices, and men then become the principal target to be found and defeated.

The obvious conclusion from the foregoing is that the infantry of the future must be a highly versatile general purpose military instrument. At one extreme of conflict intensity, the infantry, as a visible symbol of superior latent military power, must accomplish its mission with a minimum of violence. At the other extreme it will be required to control and deliver tremendous destructive power. In all cases it must ensure its own survival and continued combat effectiveness. It will not be unusual for FMF infantry and the force as a whole to be numerically inferior to the opponent in men or machines.

The Infantry as a Combat System

In developing our future infantry as an advanced tactical combat system, it is only logical to use the modern "systems approach" and "systems engineering" methods and techniques for its concept and development. In layman's words, these sometimes vague and esoteric terms mean that the design and construction of any device or organization to accomplish a given task (mission) should consider it as entity from the beginning. The contribution of each part or element to doing the task must be clearly identified and its relationship to all other parts during systems operation clearly established.

If done well, this results in a system which is a harmonious and balanced whole. It will operate smoothly, efficiently and with a minimum of that internal friction which Clausewitz long ago highlighted as a major cause of plans gone awry. (When you push the "start" button it purrs, not grinds and clanks.) It produces the maximum result for a minimum cost in time, resources and lives. In modern systems jargon this would be called a highly cost-effective system (a now somewhat tarnished term), but in the older military lexicon it would exemplify economy of force.

For years, the systems approach and systems engineering have been de rigueur for all strategic systems and many of the more technically complex advanced tactical systems. The infantry now is practically the last frontier for their application and presently is without the accumulated body of mission-unique experience, techniques and definitions the others can rely on in projecting toward the future. As a first step across the frontier, I propose a definition of an integrated tactical combat system something along these lines:

A tactical combat system is a set of interacting force elements devoted to a common purpose whose individual capabilities, organization, equipment, and use can best be determined and developed under a unifying operational concept and label.

In this case the common purpose is the new infantry mission and the unifying operational concept and label is "search and attack."

A first step in the systems approach is to establish the overall system philosophy or concept. Here, I think the choice is between a monolithic, centralized system or a hierarchical, decentralized federal system.1 Arguments can be advanced for both, and in recent years there has been a lamentable inclination toward centralizing resources and decision-making at higher echelons (the Great White Father syndrome). However, for future combat, I think the weight of evidence is heavily on the side of the federal system.

This system concept seeks to give each command echelon the greatest practicable degree of mission self-sufficiency and considers it to be a subsystem of the next higher echelon. Thus, at any echelon except the lowest, the defined tactical combat system consists of the integrated subsystems, plus those system elements unique to that echelon level. The mission execution capability broadens in scope and diversity with each step up in the hierarchy. This gives a much higher degree of system operational versatility, flexibility and survival under attack than the monolithic system. It is also the organizational concept that best meets the requirements of the Tactical Area of Responsibility (TAOR) operating principle by providing inter-related "constituent territorial units," each designed to effectively execute its assigned portion of the whole mission.

A most important characteristic of a federal system is that it permits closing the sense-evaluate-decide-act process loop for various types of tactical actions at the lowest desirable echelon. Lowering the decision level reduces the required process time and thus increases speed of response, reduces communication system and higher headquarters staffing and equipping requirements, and finally, will generally produce higher quality tactical decisions and responses.

System concept and design should start at the lowest element of the hierarchy, not at the top. In any age this would seem like a sound principle, but in looking to the future at this time it is imperative. For the next decade or more, technical advance will be the greatest single factor influencing the possible capabilities and responsibilities of each system element. It is certain that the increased echelon capability trend will continue, and that some current functions or tasks will be able to be performed at lower echelons. Further, wholly new capabilities will become possible and should be introduced at the lowest possible echelon.

From a purely military point of view I think you should start at the bottom because that is where battles are won or lost. Decision in combat between opposing forces results from the outcome of struggles carried out between small units. The plans of higher commanders succeed or fail according to the ability of the lowest echelon units to overcome the similar enemy units opposing them. Great offensive or defensive victories may be represented by broad arrows and credited to major formations, but in the final analysis they represent nothing more than the aggregation of many small successes won by squads, platoons, and companies. When these successes are achieved in sufficient numbers at the critical times and places, the larger force succeeds in its plans; when they are not, it fails. The essentiality of small unit successes becomes increasingly important in mid-intensity mobile warfare between mechanized or airmobile forces and in low intensity pacification operations against guerrilla or insurgent forces.

From a systems approach point of view I also think it is the best place to start. It allows each higher echelon to be conceived and developed on the firm foundation of delineated subsystem elements. When the maximum potential capabilities of any echelon are determined, a sound decision can then be made as to which should either be placed there or else assigned to a higher echelon for good operational or organizational reasons. This same process establishes the kinds and degree of support the element under consideration must receive from higher system elements. While this is being done at any echelon, the broad form and capabilities requirements of the higher echelons begin to develop from clearly perceived needs and roles.

I personally have a more earthy reason for starting at the bottom. In my opinion, the priority effort in reaping the benefits of modern technology should now be focussed on the men who need it most-those who are in direct and deadly confrontation with the enemy, day after day. So far, the technological explosion has bestowed most of its benefits on those elements and functions safely distant from the killing zone. There is a growing abundance of electronic marvels to help them in their missions and tasks, while infantrymen still die in too-large numbers in old fashioned ways. Past allocation of R&D thought and resources do not give credence to the doctrinal and institutional beliefs that "it's what's up front that counts"-the infantryman.

Infantry Platoon System Tasks

Accordingly, the attempt to synthesize the future infantry as an advanced technology combat (weapon) system should start at the platoon level. The first step is to make a sign as follows, and put it where you cannot avoid seeing it:


This cautions against system and equipment concepts that are devastatingly invincible in system diagrams or on test ranges, but which require an antiseptic environment, neatness and order, and the absence of antisystems. An infantry system and its equipment must thrive on mud and abuse. It must be able to fight when wounded and recuperate promptly.

The next step is to identify the specific combat tasks the platoon must be able to perform effectively in executing the new infantry mission. The ones I think are essential all of the time in any tactical situation are shown in Figure 6. (As the system development progressed, it became clear that these were also the basic tasks, or required performance capabilities, of all system echelons.)

For a search and attack system to work, continuous and accurate own-position knowledge is essential for the effective employment of platoon and supporting precision target acquisition and attack subsystems. The quality of geographic coordinate position location derived by a tired platoon leader from a battered map on a dark and rainy night in confusing terrain is not the answer.

Detection and recognition of the opposing hostile elements is a precondition to intelligent and effective platoon employment in all tactical situations and is now the first priority infantry task. If there is doubt as to whether the detected target is friend or foe, unambiguous identification (IFF) is required. This must then be followed by an accurate target position location (grid coordinates) or target designation (marking or "painting") to permit effective and economical weapon attack and tactical maneuver. Again, present eyeballing and guesstimates will not do.

Prompt, effective and least-cost (in lives or munitions) attack of enemy targets require that a versatile spectrum of organic and supporting ground and air weapons be available to the platoon and that it have the means to request and control their fires. The need still exists for "strong men armed" to attack the enemy when that is the best, only or complementary way to accomplish the platoon mission.

While the platoon is attacking the enemy by fire and assault, it also must be able to survive under like actions by the enemy. This survival capability must now extend beyond snooping and pooping to avoid visual detection, and hard hats, armored vests and entrenching tools to protect against weapon fire. By 1980 the platoon must also be able to survive against an enemy equipped with electronic sensors, fire control devices and terminal guided munitions.

Maneuver, on the ground or through the air, is implicit in the coordinated execution of the above tasks. Only rarely is an infantry unit in combat completely at rest. Something in the unit, men, ground or air vehicles, sensors, weapons, and organic or supporting weapon fires, is always in motion (maneuver) in response to the commander's orders.

Finally, all of the above tasks both stem from and lead to command action by an infantry unit leader. He must be served by command and communications organization, procedures, and equipment that permit the rapid flow of information to him and timely execution of his decisions.

Platoon System Model

A number of system model concepts appropriate to the platoon mission and tasks were considered and that shown in Figure 7 was selected as best suited for future search and attack operations. In this model the whole platoon is visualized as an integrated combat system, composed of four functional subsystems which are organized and equipped to carry out the infantry mission and seven tasks under a wide range of combat conditions.

The basic responsibility of command is inherent in the platoon headquarters. It plans and directs the platoon's operations; provides necessary support to the sub-units and the platoon leader; calls for and controls supporting fires, and provides intelligence information to higher echelons. The Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA) element has the major system responsibility to detect, identify, locate and report targets and to control supporting fires when directed. The weapon element attacks ground and air targets suitable for either a man-carried terminal-homing guided missile or an area fire weapon. The rifle element is responsible for close combat, platoon survival and target acquisition.

The teams were considered to be the basic operating modules of the system with a primary capability in one or more of the seven combat tasks and a secondary capability in others. Their organization, equipment and operating techniques must be such that two or more of them may be quickly grouped into a task unit or squad having a multi-functional capability. This interconnection capability is essential if the system is to have the flexibility to enable the platoon leader to quickly and smoothly tailor his platoon to meet continually changing combat situations. Infantrymen, with their assigned equipment and duties, are the components that make a functional module.

In developing this basic model and its subsequent elaboration, a systems approach was employed similar to that used in developing a new combat aircraft and its avionics. The entire platoon was considered to be a single combat entity and system like the aircraft, composed of numerous integrated subsystems directly controlled by one man. The platoon leader and assistant platoon leader were visualized in pilot-copilot (observer, gunner) roles, receiving information from the subsystems, making decisions, and directing subsystem action or requesting supporting action from external agencies. The men of the platoon were considered an analog of the airframe on which the subsystem hardware must be deployed in a manner that gives the greatest system economy and combat effectiveness.

System Definition

To go beyond this point in systems design, it is necessary to have a system specification ("system definition" in present Pentagon terminology). The purpose of this step is to reduce generalities to specifics and to state clearly what the system as a whole, and each of its component parts must be able to do. It should be expressed in quantitative values to the greatest extent possible. When this cannot be done, then very explicit language must be used to describe the action role or performance capability desired. The system definition insures that there are no anomalies in the system (such as a geewhiz 5-kilometer weapon when the maximum target acquisition range is 2 kilometers, or a Mach 2.0 airspeed indicator on a helicopter). It further provides indispensable unifying and coordinating guidance to all individuals who do detailed design of the system elements and components. It tells them what their part must do, and sometimes how, and how it relates and interfaces with other system elements. A serendipity benefit of system definition is that it substitutes logical reasoning for opinions or guesswork, and requires justification for every value or statement in it. It also places a premium on common sense and good judgment to temper the escalation ladder of wishful thinking.

As of now, the infantry is totally without a system definition. Nothing in either the official or unofficial literature describes it in the precise terms that would enable an intelligent man to have a clear understanding of what this vital military instrument can and cannot do in given sets of circumstances ("scenarios" to the systems man). Even among the men who practice the arcane infantry art, there is no uniformity of opinion in this respect. Their basis of judgment is derived from a combination of individually unique and non-repetitive experience and field manuals whose broad generalities, hortatory homilies and abundant cliches perpetuate the historic past and mean all things to all men.

Over the past decade or two, other tactical and strategic force elements have been learning how to do this. As a result, it is now possible (if not always well done) to prepare a systems definition for a new combat aircraft, air defense system, command and communications system, et cetera, which will insure that what is finally delivered to the user will do what it was meant to. The infantry must now start to acquire the same expertise in precise definition of the performance capabilities desired in its own complex tactical combat (weapon) system. I have made a stab at it and found it to be much more fun and stimulating than the traditional TO&E tinkering.

It would undoubtedly help understand what follows if I included my effort here, but it ran to 17 pages and I can find no way to summarize it. (Nothing in a system specification should be superfluous). My approach to platoon system definition was to first write a general specification section for the platoon as a whole and those aspects of it not covered in the seven basic tasks. This was followed by a section devoted to each of the tasks. I am sure there are other valid and possibly better approaches. With the system definition done, it was then possible to turn to deriving the platoon's hardware requirements and further detailing its organization and operations. In this particular exercise, major attention was given to advanced electronic devices for future infantry use.

One item in the definition that should be given, however, is the visualized tactical area of responsibility (TAOR) for a future search and attack platoon. This is essential for deriving the platoon's tactics and TO&E and for developing the system concepts for higher echelons. As in all things tactical, the TAOR will depend on the situation. For the platoon, the factors of greatest weight in this elastic quantity are: the line-of-sight ranges permitted by the terrain; the opposing force size, nature and deployment; and the platoon's tactical mission. I think the maximum TAOR a future platoon could dominate against a regular army type force would be about 4,000 meters to a side.


The electronic devices proposed for use in the platoon were given the generic name nfyonics to clearly indicate that they were a family of electronics for the infantry and to connote an integrated system approach to their design and use, as in avionics. Two operational criteria were used in selecting those infyonics finally adopted from a large number of candidates.

The first was that the basic purpose of any device accepted for the model was to amplify or add to the innate human capabilities of the men in the platoon to perform one or more of the seven infantry tasks. The native human abilities available are not ignored or discarded in favor of electronic devices. Rather, electronic devices are used where the human capability is no longer able to satisfy present or prospective operational demands. Electronics are used to sense things beyond human perception, or under conditions where a man's sensing capability is degraded; to locate himself and targets accurately; to attack targets with the most appropriate weapon or other technique; and to receive and transfer information swiftly and reliably. In this sense, infyonics become infantryman's power tools. The second criterion was that the above increase in human abilities should in some meaningful way contribute to an increase in the platoon's (system) combat effectiveness.

Among the various technical criteria used as goals in design concepts for platoon infyonics the following were prominent: Durability - the equipment must operate and survive in the hard-knocks environment of the infantry platoon. A basic mean-time-between-failure of at least 10,000 hours is essential. Power - minimum battery replacement must be achieved through low power drain infyonics and improved power sources. Weight and form factor - a desired weight of not over five pounds for any device and shapes that are convenient to carry and use. Operating simplicity - all devices must have simple operating controls and in no case require a high operator GCT or extensive special training. Device operation should be automated to the maximum extent practical. EW resistant - devices should operate in passive or intermittently active modes to greatest extent possible. Active devices should use radio frequency (RF) or electro-optical (EO) radiating techniques that are difficult to detect and counter.

A list of the platoon infyonic devices tentatively selected for incorporation into the platoon system is given in Figure 8. Technical forecasts indicate all could be developed by 1980 with the desired performance, technical and other characteristics. As platoon technical and tactical development proceeds over a span of years, some of these items probably will be deleted as either not fulfilling a technical promise or providing an effectiveness gain worth the cost; other devices may be added to the list when technical development, study and test indicate they could add to the platoon's combat effectiveness.

The characteristics of these infyonics are such that the platoon is essentially a line of sight system and its effective search and attack range is terrain-dependent. In surveillance and target acquisition this is partially remedied by the use of remote, unattended sensors. But for both search and attack there is a need for cooperative effort with supporting light rotary or fixed wing aircraft. The air-ground team should start here. The probability of successful detection and attack is also dependent upon weather and target state. There is a progressive diminuition of effectiveness in both search and attack from daylight to darkness to foul weather. The detection and recognition capability is greater for active targets (moving, firing, radiating) than for passive targets.

The STA sensors expand the platoon's battlefield surveillance and target acquisition capability far beyond its present eyeball-limited capacity. Many more targets and additional target types can be detected and recognized; detection can be quicker and at greater ranges; enemy camouflage will be less effective, and the vigilance of untiring machines can often be substituted for weary men. This target acquisition capability will now be extended to the fifth dimension of warfare, the electro-magnetic spectrum. Defiladed areas may be monitored by remote unattended sensors. When a target is detected, its grid coordinates can be determined by laser or radar, or it can be "painted" by laser to designate it to any other ground or air observer or weapon crew. If necessary, an IFF interrogation can be made by laser or radar.

All, or selected, platoon weapons may be equipped with electro-optical or radar sights to permit night and all-weather target attack. Laser target painting will provide terminal guidance to the external supporting ground and air new weapon families now in development. Enemy electronic sensors, fire control and communication devices can be countered electronically.

Precise grid location of platoon elements can be obtained from a triservice ground or space-based area navigation system by a receiver terminal, supplemented and extended as necessary by the platoon's own infyonics or radar beacons. Alarms alert the platoon that it is under observation by hostile electronic surveillance or fire control devices; IFF transponders minimize the chance of being fired upon by friendly forces.

Finally, commanders can get and pass the word, rapidly, reliably and accurately. Formatted type messages (intelligence reports, fire requests, routine standard queries and orders, etc.) are sent as digital burst transmission messages. A slow-scan TV picture of the local terrain or combat action may be sent to higher echelons or adjacent units. Digital messages or pictures may be received at platoon headquarters.

The platoon riflemen and most other individuals should be armed with something like the present developmental Special Purpose Individual Weapon (SPIW), combining a hyper-velocity flechette and grenade capability. A good sidearm may be needed by some men who cannot tote a SPIW in addition to their other gear. The weapon subsystem should have dual armament. Against a modern enemy it needs something to defeat armored vehicles, tactical aircraft and helicopters. A dual-purpose guided missile is needed for this and is technically feasible. For the low intensity situations it should have something along the line of the XM174, XM175 crew-served grenade launcher concepts.

Platoon TO&E

The next step in developing the platoon as a combat system is to bring the platoon model to life with men and equipment as a tentative TO&E. How many men in each team? What are each man's duties and capabilities in the team (system)? What infyonics and other equipment does he carry? How many teams in each squad? How many of each kind of squad are needed for each functional subsystem? What functions and capabilities should be in platoon headquarters? Do the teams (modules) have the desired plugin mating capability to permit task organizing, the most probable method of tactical employment?

This is the area of systems design where personal experience, judgment, and vision of the future are most evident, and thus is also the area of greatest potential diversity and disagreement. My platoon was smaller than today's, about 40 men, and had a first lieutenant as platoon leader with a second lieutenant assistant platoon leader. However, one man's opinion is as good as another's until we have developed the hardware and find just what it can do and, concurrently, through study and experimentation, developed the doctrine, tactics and techniques for search and attack warfare. The important point is to keep the TO&E tentative as long as possible.

It must be kept tentative throughout design of the complete infantry system to permit iteration -another technique of the systems approach. Iteration simply means that as you progress in system design, you keep going back to what you have already done to see if it needs to be changed in any way to still purr when fitted into the larger systems of which it is an essential part. In this case, we have designed a platoon to do what we thought it should, with some general idea of what company and battalion would be like. When we get to their specific design we may find we want the platoon to do more, or less, or do it differently.

Platoon Conclusions

The greater mission capability of the platoon, achieved through significant gains in performance effectiveness of the seven infantry combat tasks, will have a profound effect on the conduct of future ground combat operations. This will lead to new operational roles and battlefield tactics for the platoon. Two of these are worth noting here. First, the platoon now becomes a primary operational subsystem of higher echelon infantry systems in their execution of the infantry search and attack mission. In its search for the enemy, the platoon is a versatile, multi-spectral sensor. In its attack of the enemy, the platoon is both a weapon and an agency to conduct the delivery of fire by other organic or supporting air and ground weapons.

Second, "search and attack" tactics will differ markedly from "close with and destroy" tactics. The platoon now seeks to stand off from the enemy rather than close with him. As a minimum, it strives to find the enemy and attack him with supporting weapons before he reaches effective small arms range. Its search for the enemy is not a static or stereotyped action, but a fluid continum that anticipates and responds to the dynamics of combat. It endeavors to avoid disclosure of its presence to the greatest degree possible. By a deliberate avoidance of close combat, the platoon reduces the enemy's capability to acquire and attack targets, maintains a higher level of combat effectiveness because of fewer casualties, and retains a greater tactical freedom of action. The scope of the traditional fire and maneuver platoon tactics is now broadened to include the maneuver and use of the platoon sensors (sense and maneuver) and the request and control of supporting ground and air fires as prime command tasks.

I am confident that an infantry platoon of this general nature, an advanced technology combat system, will come into being, somewhere, within in the next decade or two simply because it is in the spirit of late 20th Century man and society. (In the argot of today's youth-it's got "good vibrations.") Perpetuation of present infantry concepts will result in a military and societal anachronism.

The Company

Moving up to the company echelon of the infantry combat system, I soon ran into some very perplexing questions. Should there even be a company echelon in the battalion system? (Remember, nothing is sacred!) If there is one, is it a beefed-up platoon or mini-battalion? What is its operational role in search and attack tactics? What advanced technology weapons and infyonics are best placed at company rather than at platoon or battalion?

After much wall staring-at, pad doodling and several futile efforts to design a defensible company, I concluded it could not be done independently, but had to be developed collaterally with the battalion system. At this stage of investigation, the hierarchical roles, responsibilities and capabilities of the platoon and battalion echelons seemed reasonably clear, but that of the company was still obscured in the fog of future war and technology. A clearer picture of the battalion system was necessary to determine if there should be a company subsystem and what its system function and capabilities should be. Thus, the company problem was put into a readily accessible memory bank while getting under way on battalion system synthesis. I hope the justification for this deviation from accepted methodology will become evident in the development of the battalion system.

The Battalion System - Additional Factors

Development of the future infantry battalion concept and system followed same general pattern and analytic methods as used for the platoon. The fundamental premises of that effort regarding evolutionary trends, guidelines and goals were re-examined and judged to be still valid. Execution of the new infantry mission and the seven basic infantry tasks at the battalion level obviously involves actions broader in scope and diversity than at the platoon level and introduces some new responsibilities. These will be discussed shortly. But first, I think we should note two additional factors that, in my opinion, play a dominant role in determining the combat responsibilities and capabilities and actions of the battalion system. These factors pervade all force elements and echelons, but it is at the battalion level that they first have an abiding and far-reaching effect on system decisions.

The first of these is the increasingly tridimensional nature of limited warfare operations. Land combat entered the tri-dimensional era when tactical aviation began to provide consistent and effective battlefield combat intelligence and firepower support to the ground elements. However, the ground and air elements each operated in their own domain and neither was tri-dimensional. The adoption of the vertical envelopment amphibious concept by the Marine Corps shortly after World War II heralded the advent of the truly tri-dimensional combat force. Since then the concept has advanced steadily and now at a rapidly accelerating rate.

This continuing air-mechanization of ground forces (which repeats the ground vehicle mechanization that has been going on ever since World War I) will see an ever-growing use of organic VTOL air vehicles by ground units (as in the U.S. Army at present) to expand and increase their capabilities in the essential functional areas of combat intelligence, firepower, maneuver, logistics and command. Within the next decade or two, the use of air vehicles will be routine for all of these purposes and in some cases will be the primary method of execution. As a result, traditional distinctions between ground and air functions, responsibilities and units will diminish and blur. What was once black and white will become gray.

Although the United States now leads in this irreversible evolutionary step in the forms and forces of limited warfare, the capability already exists in other nations, and still others will acquire it in the years ahead. Thus, the threat to a battalion's mission accomplishment will also become tri-dimensional when the force opposite it uses air vehicles for all tactical purposes. I imagine that North Vietnamese battalion commanders already understand quite well the nature of and problems posed by a tri-dimensional threat.

The second additional factor influencing the battalion system is the Tactical Area of Responsibility (TAOR) operating concept, which I think is a major advance in tactical thought. Its continuing development and refinement offer a remarkable opportunity for fresh and innovative approaches to the composition and operation of tactical forces. The operative feature of the concept is its emphatic restatement of the primacy of command, of giving the TAOR commander control over all actions necessary to accomplish his mission. ("A commander assigned a TAOR is responsible for the positive control and coordination of all activities, including fire and maneuver, within its periphery"-FMFM 6-3.)

If this concept is to retain its validity in the 1970s and 1980s, it must now be advanced from one of two-dimensional "area" to one of three-dimensional "space", and become a TSOR (Tactical Space of Responsibility) concept. In tridimensional warfare, the control and use of the airspace over a tactical unit is inseparable from the control and use of the "groundspace" (terrain), and both must be the responsibility of commanders with tactical missions. It is illogical to give them the means and authority to engage and defeat the traditional threat spectrum of the past, forces operating on the groundspace, and withhold the means and authority to engage and defeat the identified threat spectrum of the future, forces that operate both on the groundspace and in the airspace. (As a matter of historical interest, the TSOR concept was actually applied at the regimental level in the siege of Khe Sanh during early 1968 as a necessary reflexive action in response to coordination requirements that arose from ground operations, ground fire support and air support, with all four Services involved to varying extents.)

In developing the battalion and higher echelon systems, initial system design decisions must be made on the nature and extent of the third dimension (air) operating capability that should be organic to the unit and what must be provided as external support on request. Similar decisions must also be made on the unit's organic capability to counter hostile tri-dimensional operations and the degree to which it must rely on external support. These decisions will be hard to come by. The range of options in an amalgam of ground and air elements is broad and the forces of inertia and status quo resisting such a union are strong. However, somebody will do it some day, and I hope we do it before the Black Hats do. I think the results will be even more earth-shaking than the Germans' introduction of blitzkrieg warfare in 1940, or the Marines' curtain-raiser on amphibious warfare two years later.

Infantry Mission Implications

Now let us note some of the battalion-level implications of the new infantry mission and seven combat tasks that influence the capabilities we wish the system to have, and how we incorporate them. First, the search part of the mission and tasks.

When opposing forces are not in contact in the historic sense of being in eyeball and rifle shot range, the battalion surveillance and target acquisition (STA) subsystem must be able to report the presence, posture and activity of enemy units of concern to the battalion commander before such contact is established. This is essential if he is to make decisions and plans on the best course of action to carry out his tactical mission while he still has the greatest possible number of choices and freedom of action. If he is denied this information until visual contact at direct fire weapon ranges is established, his position in this respect is already severely circumscribed and his opponent may have the tactical advantage. Contact on a collision basis often initially limits the deployment and maneuver of his units and employment of supporting fires to hasty reactions to enemy actions and unexpected events. This must be eliminated to the greatest extent practicable. When infantry battalions do acquire this desired stand-off detection capability, the term "contact with the enemy" should be broadened to include initial detection and reporting of the enemy by the battalion STA subsystem.

When line of sight contact is established, the battalion STA subsystem must rapidly detect and report all enemy elements thus contacted. The commander who first has a clear picture of the size, composition and deployment of the opposing force has gained a major initial and perhaps enduring tactical advantage during the ensuing engagement. Early and complete detection is of particular importance in determining which commander can first employ with the greatest effect all of his organic and supporting firepower resources.

In a deployed and engaged enemy force, the battalion must also be able to detect those elements with a critical operational role that do not normally establish line of sight contact with an opponent. The information on which the battalion commander makes his decisions and plans must not be limited to the thin crust of the enemy force as represented by the elements in line of sight contact. Information in depth on the enemy is essential for the commander's maneuver and fire plans. The battalion STA effort must detect and report such force elements as: indirect fire weapon positions, anti-air weapon and sensor positions, the location of infantry and armor reserves, of command posts, and so on.

When the enemy has a tri-dimensional capability, or even a strong conventional tactical air capability, the STA subsystem must also be able to detect and track those air vehicles operating in or adjacent to the battalion TSOR which represent a potential threat to the battalion in the execution of its mission.

When the STA requirements exceed the battalion's organic capabilities, higher echelon units must provide STA support to the battalion in the same manner they now provide fire support as the STA function precedes and is of equal importance to the fire support function. (The battalion must do the same for its subordinate units.) Therefore, whenever the battalion's organic resources are not able to satisfy any of the foregoing detection requirements, the needed information must be provided through prior planning or on request. The request-response procedures and techniques developed for STA support should possess the same simplicity, celerity and obligatory nature as now present in the field artillery-infantry direct support relationship.

As in the case of the platoon, the traditional fire and maneuver concept of infantry operations must be broadened to include "sense and maneuver." The deployment and tasking of the battalion level STA resources and of the STA capabilities of his subordinate units becomes a primary command task of the battalion commander.

Next, let us consider the attack missions and tasks. Each target acquisition made by the search subsystem must be evaluated at some command echelon in the battalion and a decision made as to whether or not it should be attacked. If the decision is to attack, then a further evaluation and decision is necessary as to the time and method of attack and the echelon controlling the attack.

If this critical and unending sense-evaluate-decide-act process is to meet increasingly severe demands for quality and speed, then it must be closed within the battalion for all those targets that fall within the compass of its tactical mission. Within its assigned portion of the battle area the battalion must have the authority and ability to integrate and direct the employment of all organic and supporting ground, air and naval weapons. This need has been recognized in the ever-growing concern and involvement of the battalion commander in the application of all forms of firepower needed to insure the accomplishment of his mission. A recent U.S. Army study confirmed the critical importance of this command task in operations in Viet Nam: "Hence, upon contact with the enemy U.S. maneuver forces frequently suspended forward movement and the principal tasks of the commanders become the application and coordination of organic and supporting fires against the enemy. Such maneuver as was attempted after initial contact was in the main to facilitate the employment of supporting fire". This combat role is not considered to be unique to the Vietnam conflict, but a recognition of the need to place the direction of supporting firepower in the hands of mission-oriented commanders in all conflict environments and intensity levels.

Fortunately, this desirable goal can be realized with a minimum of travail through an orderly change and growth in the responsibilities and capabilities of the existing battalion fire support coordination function and center. This should be accompanied by a gradual realignment and reform of traditional fire support responsibilities, practices, and organization within and without the infantry to achieve a truly integrated fire support system.

Finally, the attack of the enemy with riflemen, either in the assault or in defense. The ability to attack the enemy with riflemen provides the infantry commander with an alternative mode to attack by firepower and with a capability to deliver a concerted attack by both fire and assault. Expanding capabilities for the air mechanization of search, attack by fire and rifle unit mobility permit such concerted attacks to be conducted in depth against all elements of the opposing forces. In low intensity crisis control or pacification operations, the riflemen elements of the battalion combat system provide both an essential, visible manifestation of greater, unseen military power and the means to apply minimal, discriminating force.

The close combat element of the battalion mission places a requirement on the whole system to insure that its assault will produce tactically decisive results promptly and with minimum casualties. In part, the requirement can be met by preceding every close combat action with intensive search and attack-by-fire efforts to provide the basis for the best possible assault plan and to obtain a maximum reduction in the enemy's combat effectiveness. Providing the individual rifleman with weapons and equipment that endow him with an inherent advantage over his opponent is another essential approach to the requirement.

Battalion Qualitative Operational Considerations

Before going on to develop the battalion system model and system definition, there is one additional set of system inputs that need to be stated and discussed. These are what I call "qualitative operational considerations," the intangible, non-quantifiable factors of military value judgments that play a major role in arriving at a tactical combat system that will work on the battlefield and is acceptable to the men who are its essence. There are four of these that I think shape the initial systems concept and all that follows thereafter. They are: operational process speed, distribution of operational responsibility, system versatility, and system self-sufficiency. System engineers loath inputs of this nature because they are more nearly matters of faith and belief than demonstrable fact and cannot be transmuted into a system diagram or computer input. To the soldier, however, they are often of greater importance in judging the military worth and utility of a system than a numeric proof of its superiority over alternative systems.

Operational process speed describes the rapidity with which the system performs the myriad tasks which must be done to succeed in any assigned tactical mission. In all search and attack echelons we are specifically concerned with improving both the speed and quality of the sense-evaluate-decide-act process. This process is the most critical, frequent and non-uniform sequence action of the infantry battalion system. Historically, the degree of excellence of this process has been the greatest single factor in success or failure in battle.

The sense-evaluate-decide-act process centers about the unit commander at every tactical echelon. Ideally, the process system (men and equipment, organization, procedures) should be fully responsive in real time 'to both his needs and desires. His greatest needs are for information of the operating area in which he is or will be, of the opposing enemy force, and of his own unit and other supporting or cooperating friendly forces. His desires are expressed in his action orders to his subordinate units and in requests to higher, supporting or adjacent units.

Operational process speed thus involves the four basic operational elements of any military unit or system: intelligence, target attack, maneuver and command. The sense-evaluate-report cycle of the combat intelligence subsystem must be thorough, accurate and rapid. Target attack by weapon subsystems must be prompt in response and quickly produce the desired effect. Maneuvers must be punctual and precise. The command system must insure the swift and reliable transfer of information and orders both within the battalion and to external cooperating, supporting or directive force elements.

The distribution of operational responsibilities, and the concommitant men and equipment resources, within the battalion must be such that system operation is not impaired during periods of intense combat action. Operational process overloads which create delays or stoppages in the flow of information and orders at any system element will reduce system effectiveness throughout the entire system. Because the operational process is always centered on the person of the unit commander (or key staff surrogates), the thrust of this consideration is that his human capabilities to evaluate, decide and act must not be exceeded.

System design, therefore, must distribute those matters for which each echelon commander has a responsibility, the nature of degree of his involvement, and the necessary men and equipment command aides in a manner which insures that system operating efficiency is not degraded during those crucial periods of combat always characterized by peaks in the tempo of activity. This same consideration also applies to the battalion as a whole. The operational responsibilities assigned to it must not result in it becoming an unwieldy, sluggish and complicated system. To the contrary, they should further the desirable system goals of agility, alert response and simplicity.

System versatility is a paramount virtue in any future FMF structure. The most certain thing about the post-1980 battalion is the high degree of uncertainty about who and where it will fight, and how that fighting (or non-fighting) will differ from all that has gone before. The inescapable lesson of history is that the future will be filled with surprises. Present attempts to reduce this uncertainty through long range forecasting have only confirmed it by conceding that the valid possible combinations on conflict locale, forces, scope, intensity, political objectives and constraints, etc., are already great and continue to grow.

Under these conditions the battalion must be one of extraordinary operational versatility if it is to remain the primary mission execution element of a force-in-readiness. This necessitates a system which is basically all-purpose but whose organization, equipment and operating procedures are highly adaptive both before and after commitment to the specific demands of each conflict and combat encounter. A system composed throughout of functional mission/task modules appears to be the best approach to achieving the necessary high degree of adaptive operational versatility. Each module, in either its TO&E or a quickly attained variant form, must have a demonstrated utility in all of a wide range of forecast conflict situations. Module capabilities and characteristics must permit rapid and smooth union or interaction with other modules of both its parent system and other infantry or external systems. The system thereby achieves responsive multi-purpose topological elasticity and flexibility and avoids single-purpose geometric inflexibility.

How self-sufficient should the battalion be? As noted earlier, infantry evolution since World War I has been characterized by a steady growth in the scope and degree of combat capability at each echelon. The many factors that have impelled this trend are still operative, and now in an increasing degree due to the impact of modern technology on the battlefield. Greater self-sufficiency in the future will aid in overcoming the infantry battalion's ever-growing isolation on the battlefield, reduce the increasing complexity of its coordination problems with external support forces, and support the acute need to reduce the sense-evaluate-decide-act sequence time. Greater battalion self-sufficiency also advances system effectiveness and versatility at the brigade (regiment) and division levels by diminishing the number, scope and complexity of command and coordination actions required at those command echelons.

The degree of self-sufficiency desired or attained is closely interrelated to the distribution of operational responsibility consideration and the system capability must be determined on an iterative basis. The answer lies somewhere between a completely self-sufficient battalion and one that is overly dependent upon external agencies to accomplish its mission. Solomon-like decisions of this nature are difficult, but it is what the nation expects you to do, and do well.

Now for the system concept and model. These were developed under the freedom of inquiry hunting license granted by the Nothing Is Sacred guideline established at the beginning of this exploration of the future. This freedom is mandatory at this time, not only to conceptualize major changes that could result from advances in technology, but also to see if the present Marine battalion organizational-operational concept is the best baseline to work from.

In this era of rapid and broad technical progress it has become increasingly evident that discovery and innovation transcend traditional or ordered domains, methods and forms. Therefore, post-1980 battalion system concepts must not be constrained by any existing allocation of missions, responsibilities, authority or resources among the various elements that compose a Marine landing force. The existing sovereignties and prerogatives of the ground and air combat arms and services, which antedate modern technology, are considered open to change in order to achieve combat systems capable of employing advanced weapons and equipment with the utmost efficiency and effectiveness. Therefore, when the system concept indicates it is essential, tactical capabilities or authority which the infantry battalion formerly obtained from other elements by request or coordination may now become organic.

Foreign Infantry Battalions

Furthermore, it is possible that soldiers elsewhere have arrived at forces concepts of merit that we should consider and possibly borrow from. (The Marine Corps was recently singled out by the DoD, Deputy Director of Defense Research and Engineering for Tactical Warfare Programs as the military service with the least "not-invented-here" bias and the most progressive in adapting foreign developments that improve its own combat effectiveness.) Accordingly, I ventured abroad and examined the battalion and brigade (regimental) T/Os of a number of foreign armies and marine forces. A representative sample of battalion organizations is shown in Figure 9. The first conclusion drawn from the data given is that there are almost as many concepts of the best infantry battalion organization, size, armament, and doctrine as there are armies. The only areas of commonality (the evidence of "immutable principles" at work) are that (1) all battalions have a headquarters (or H&S) company and some rifle companies, (2) all rifle companies have three rifle platoons and (3) all rifle platoons have three rifle squads.

Organizationally, the 10 battalions reported on here reveal major variations, such as:

  • four battalions have 4 rifle companies and six have 3
  • four have a weapons (or support) company and six do not
  • the Hq. company of 5 battalions includes an AT (or AT/Assault unit), 4 have a mortar unit, 4 have a medical unit, 3 have an engineer unit and 2 have a recon unit
  • five rifle companies have a weapons platoon and five do not
  • three rifle platoons have a weapons squad and seven do not
  • some rifle squads include a light machine gun and some do not.

The variations in unit size are even greater than in organizational structure. For example:

  • the largest battalion is over three times as big as the smallest and almost twice as large as the median
  • the largest Hq. (H&S) Co. is about 3.5 times as large as the smallest one similar in concept in a battalion without a separate weapons company; it is also larger than one complete battalion
  • the largest rifle company is over 2.5 times as large as the smallest and over half as large as the smallest battalion
  • the largest rifle platoon is over twice the size of the smallest and the largest squad is double the smallest
  • the USMC makes a clean sweep in first prize for the biggest damn battalion, headquarters company, rifle company, rifle platoon, and rifle squad.

In summary, the diversities evident in the data indicate that there are no universally observable organizational conclusions to stated tactical problems. Force organization at all echelons is the result of national tradition, predilections and interpretations of the reasons for past failures or successes. The Marines' lonesome position as the leading advocate of Napoleon's maxim "God is on the side of the biggest battalions" is ample reason for uninhibited and innovative thought on what force organization concept is best for the future.

Examination of foreign organizations revealed the interesting fact that a number of nations have now adopted as their organizational pattern the battalion and regimental landing team (BLT-RLT) concept, a product of the Marines' amphibious warfare development of the 1930s. Their infantry battalions and brigades (regiments) are organized and employed as integrated combined arms units of varying degrees of self-sufficiency. The Soviets are the most advanced in this respect with their highly self-sufficient motorized rifle regiment and motorized rifle battalion. However, all of them are still two dimensional (area) forces rather than three dimensional (space) forces. They too are still in thrall to conceptual limitations that antedate the coming of the VTOL air vehicle.

Battalion System Model

After weighing all the factors and considerations that have been discussed previously, and with the insight into battalion level roles and capabilities gained during the platoon system development, I think the future battalion requires the functional capabilities shown in the system model in Figure 10. As in the case of the platoon, the battalion system is conceived as a fully integrated tactical combat system able to execute its doctrinal and assigned missions on a tri-dimensional battlefield. To the left of the staff in the figure are the line functions of command and the subordinate ground and air elements that are themselves integrated search and attack systems. To the right of the staff are the specialized search, attack and support elements necessary to provide essential support to line elements and to meet battalion level requirements. At the bottom are Marine Amphibious Brigade elements attached to the battalion when this is preferable to providing a specific type of support on a request basis.

The battalion as a tactical combat system has the capability to conduct tri-dimensional offensive, defensive or pacification operations in its assigned TSOR with both organic and supporting resources. It can search its operating area for all objects or phenomena that are pertinent to the execution of its tactical mission. This is the STA mission and includes hostile forces, friendly forces, non-military people and things, and the natural environment. It can direct and control the employment of organic and supporting firepower against known or suspected targets. This is the attack-by-fire (stand-off combat) mission and involves the deployment and use of organic weapons and the positive direction of the fires of supporting ground, air and naval weapons. Finally, it can direct the employment of its infantry assault units against hostile forces or to control the civil population. This is the traditional infantry close combat or enforcement of martial and civil law mission.

You will notice that it is not called a Marine Infantry Battalion, but a Marine Search and Attack Battalion. Very early in system concept development I began to feel that the traditional U.S. connotations of the term "infantry" were too narrow and confining for the range of capabilities and operations required at the battalion level in the post-1980 FMF. "Infantry" looks backward to the military ethos and forms of a distant past while "search and attack" describes the military evolution now in progress. The BLT organizational concept is far more appropriate to both present and future combat needs and the incorporation into the battalion of noninfantry elements warrants a more inclusive, less parochial name so that everyone will feel, at home.

Battalion System Definition

Preparing a system definition for the search and attack battalion is naturally a more complex task than for the platoon. There are a greater number and variety of subsystem elements to be integrated into a smooth working tactical combat system, the system responsibilities have been enlarged with additional search and attack tasks to be performed, and finally, the system has become truly tri-dimensional with both ground and air components. As in the case of the platoon, the definition specifics were not developed in a vacuum, but with a perception of what the next higher system, the Marine Amphibious Brigade (MAB), would be like. This foreknowledge is necessary for decision on whether a required system capability should be organic to the battalion, provided by the MAB, or in some way divided between the two.

I visualize the future MAB as the highest integrated tri-dimensional tactical combat system in the FMF. It has operational missions and roles analagous to those of the present Marine division. It would include two to five search and attack battalions, an air search and attack group, ground STA and fire support, anti-air and combat service support elements. The air group provides the MAB commander with a V/STOL capability for search and attack, troop maneuver and supply for both MAB-level missions and tasks and to support battalion operations. (High performance air intercept is not organic to the MAB but may be attached from Force when required.) In this MAB, the long, long betrothal of the RLT and the MAG is finally consummated through the grace of technical progress.

My system definition for the battalion ran to 30 pages and again cannot be readily digested without losing the essential interrelatedness of the individual specifications. However, I would like to comment on some of the areas where system philosophy has a major impact on system definition and design. First, how big a TSOR should the battalion control or dominate?

As in the case of the platoon, no "normal" TSOR is specified as it all depends on the situation and with the same never-the-same variables. However, when all variables are favorable, I believe a maximum TAOR of about 20 kilometers diameter (or square) is possible. This is based on specifying battalion search and attack capabilities that extend for about 10 kilometers on the ground and in the air beyond its deployed platoons. (Figure 11 - missing). A 5,000-foot altitude ceiling is set over the battalion's TAOR to establish it as a TSOR. The battalion has command responsibility for air defense and air traffic regulation under this ceiling.

The battalion must be completely VTOL mobile. All equipment must be transportable in air vehicles of 2-ton lift capacity and be carried or towed by 1-ton .capacity ground vehicles. Search and attack platoons and companies (as discussed later) must be 100 per cent foot mobile.

In the battalion STA functional subsystem, the platoons have the prime STA responsibility and resources for those forward elements of the enemy forces within line of sight of the platoons to a distance of about 2 kilometers. Battalion level ground and air STA elements are responsible for line of sight targets beyond platoon infyonics performance capabilities, for all air targets, and for those enemy force elements that normally operate in defilade from ground observation.

The battalion level target attack subsystem (ground and air) requires weapons, munitions and operating techniques and procedures that enable it to attack promptly and effectively, under any environmental conditions, those types of targets that are most likely to be located within 10 kilometers of deployed platoons. The desired effect on the target must be achieved with a significantly reduced expenditure of munitions from present (1970) standards. The battalion must have a fifth-dimension (ECM) attack capability against enemy electronic sensor, fire control, weapon and communication systems. The close combat attack capability is resident in the infantry platoon subsystem of the battalion.

Given the level of performance specified in the definition for the first six of the basic infantry tasks, the combat effectiveness of the whole battalion system ultimately depends on the seventh task-command action. In establishing my specifications for the command and communications subsystem, I used that definition of command which says it encompasses all things related to "running the show." The quantitative and qualitative subsystem specifications were derived from the following personal interpretation of running the show at the search and attack battalion level.

Tactical forces, and particularly the infantry, have evolved as those military instruments best able to operate in and cope with situations of disorder and uncertainty. The endemic nature of disorder and uncertainty is the dominant consideration in establishing the post-1980 command subsystem organization, operating modes and performance requirements. The range of conflict situations is great and can be predicted only in general terms. Tactical combat is nonrepetitive; every future engagement will be unique in the nature, sequence, scope and intensity of events requiring command action. The modus operand; of post-1980 Marine forces cannot now be described in detail. Technological advance, or rate of progress in its implementation, cannot be forecast with absolute certainty. Finally, the humans in the command system will not be uniform in their skill or method of use of the system or their demands on it. Therefore, the system concept and design must be highly accommodative to the situations in which it will be used, to the men who will use it, and to the devices available for use.

At the battalion level the exercise of command must retain a highly personal quality centered on the roles and needs of the battalion commander and his staff assistants. System design must be addressed to serving a "man on horseback" commander, whether on the ground or in the air, and his kaleidoscopic world. The system is therefore composed of men and various devices, with the decision-making role reserved to men. The purpose of the devices in the command system is threefold: (1) to convey information to the men rapidly and accurately; (2) to assist men in using that information as a basis for command decisions; (3) to convey rapidly and accurately the orders resulting from command decision to the proper action agencies. All devices should therefore be conceived and developed with a human user bias. The crucial interface in the battalion command and communication subsystem is between men and equipment.


In developing the Search and Attack Battalion T/O&E from the system model, I think the first problem to grapple with is size. Forecast scenarios of future high intensity tactical nuclear warfare, of mid- and low intensity non-nuclear combat, and of crisis control intervention, all argue for a small, agile battalion with great operational flexibility and swift response to its commander's decisions. Concurrent technology forecasts confirm that such a battalion is feasible, and with even greater combat power than at present. (Remember that the design criteria for infyonics require them to enhance the present military task performance capability of men and to enable them to do things they cannot now do. The result is a greater unit combat effectiveness with fewer men.)

In contrast to the requirement, the Marine infantry battalion and BLT are elephantine, ponderous and sluggish. Figure 12 shows the inflationary spiral (about 7 per cent a year) in battalion size over a 32-year period. I think the future search and attack battalion size should be about one-half that of its present organizational equivalent, the BLT, and thus about two-thirds the size of the TO infantry battalion. Accordingly, I set a tentative manpower ceiling of about 900 men for the post-1980 battalion.

In addition to the basic reasons for a smaller battalion, one of this size would also have greater strategic and tactical mobility as it would require fewer or smaller land, sea or air vehicles for overseas movement and battlefield maneuver. It would further enable an FMF of any given size to have more search and attack (maneuver) units than now possible-roughly one-third more in a three-division/wing FMF. This, I think, is of the utmost importance for both the wider tactical flexibility it offers in the planning and conduct of combat operations and for maintaining force-in-readiness effectiveness in times of defense manpower and money cutbacks.

A Company Echelon?

In determining what the strength and organization of the infantry search and attack component of the battalion should be, the first question to resolve is whether or not a company echelon is still needed. A two-echelon battalion is a very intriguing and valid possibility for the future. One echelon is the battalion as modeled in Figure 10. The only lower ground search and attack echelon (subsystem) would be an infantry search and attack unit, about 70-80 men strong, whose operational capabilities would be somewhat greater than those of the proposed platoon. The battalion would have between five and seven of these units.

This system organizational concept has a number of virtues that make it particularly appropriate for future conflicts of all types, locales, and intensity levels. Foremost among these are that it makes the smaller battalion readily attainable and concurrently cuts operational process speed by eliminating one command echelon. (A bonus is that it would also end the three-company/four-company battalion argument for all time!) While I feel that this will eventually become the search and attack battalion organization, I think that the company should be retained during the transition from a "close with and destroy" battalion to the "engage and defeat" battalion. During this period the FMF could conduct comparative tests of both the two- and three-echelon battalion to determine which best meets future combat needs.

What then is the role and organization of the company in a search and attack battalion? There are two basic system models possible for the company echelon. In one model the company has STA and target attack responsibilities beyond those of its platoons and has the company level resources to do so. In the alternate model there are no company level STA or target attack elements. After a very intensive analysis of this problem, which is a most important one in battalion system design, I opted for the latter case-a company consisting of a small headquarters and three search and attack platoons. The decisive arguments for this choice are as follows:

First, it is difficult to find any search and attack problems that are unique to the company and which would require separately developed sensors and weapons. STA and target attack matters of interest to a company commander are also of interest to either a platoon or battalion commander. Second, infyonics and weapons technology seem to divide rather cleanly into two classes, the man-carried platoon items and the larger man-pack or ground and air vehicle-mounted battalion items.

The third and most important reason, though, is that deriving from distribution of operational responsibilities and command action. Let us briefly examine just one aspect of the company commander's responsibilities and combat work load, that of STA and target attack where he obviously would play a key role in the battalion system sense-evaluate-decide-act loop. In a company with both company level STA and weapon resources, I identified 12 types or classes of operational traffic flowing to him and 10 types originating from him. Assuming that he does not personally sense targets, his command role is to analyze, decide and then take the appropriate action on STA information reported to him and on target attack requests. Concomitantly, he stores relevant information from each sequence to aid in developing the complete tactical situation picture and in making future decisions. The extent of the evaluate-decide-act-store actions required of him for each item of just the STA information reported to him is shown in Figure 13. If the total functional STA subsystem is as effective at producing targets as is anticipated, it appears that system demands possibly exceed the capabilities of one of its components-the company commander.

This intuitive feeling is supported by a listing of the company STA elements gathering and feeding information to him. A three-platoon company would have the following:

Each STA team may be equated to a direct support artillery battalion FO Team-with the caveat that its 1980 target acquisition capability will be far superior to that of the present FO team. The present direct support battalion has 12 FO teams reporting to the battalion FDC. The company would have nine such teams plus nine or more other target locating elements. Even though some share of targets acquired by the platoons will be engaged by them and not require target attack decisions and action by the company commander, nevertheless, it seems certain that this one command task only might well occupy most of his attention, day and night. (Visualize his command burden in the most intense and sustained combat action of your experience.)

To correct this system deficiency and achieve system goals, it would be necessary to provide a section in the company headquarters to perform the required FSCC (or S-2/S-3) functions. This extends the current battalion FSCC capability to the next lower echelon and is consistent with the importance of the first two elements (search and attack) of the new infantry mission. It further provides for effective 24-hour-a-day STA and target attack operation and relieves the company commander of this task when other combat or leadership actions require his full attention and presence. For a passel of reasons I do not favor doing this.

A better solution to this system organization and operation problem is to put all STA and target attack capabilities at the platoon and battalion echelons. This will significantly reduce the number of events that come to the company commander for evaluate-decide-act-store action. It also reduces the number of company elements that he must direct and coordinate. he may now concentrate his full attention on the maneuver and employment of his three platoons and on obtaining STA and target attack support for them from battalion. His combat role should be that of the system tactician for the battalion system's basic search and attack subsystems-the infantry platoons. He should be what someone has called "a master of maneuver," planning, directing and coordinating the maneuver of sensors, weapon fires, and riflemen to succeed in the mission assigned the battalion.

There is another organizational problem relating to the company that cannot and need not be answered at this time. Should all of the battalion infantry component be composed of search and attack units, or should there be some elements that have only the infantry assault capability? Should the company have two of the proposed search and attack platoons and one assault platoon-an advanced technology descendant of the present rifle platoon? Or should the battalion have two or three search and attack companies and one assault company? The answer to this can safely be deferred until future search and attack battalion system development has clearly established system capabilities and limitations.

Battalion Size TO&E

If I were a Marine captain or major today, I could hardly wait for my chance to command (about 1980) a battalion like that shown in Figure 14. It is a fighting force that can really take care of itself in a brawl, and when it needs help from big brother (brigade or force), can get it fast. It has a whole new order of tactical versatility due to its ability to search, attack and maneuver in the air and on the ground throughout its TSOR. A skillful commander will soon find that it opens to him many new opportunities and ways to gain and keep the tactical initiative in any type of combat action-a priceless asset in running the show. The strength figure estimates came from T/Os prepared for each unit and are probably within 10 per cent of what can be achieved under a policy of frugality rather than affluence in use of manpower.

The H&S Co. has five sections (or platoons): battalion headquarters, communications, service and supply, medical and company headquarters. Battalion tactical operations are planned and conducted from a semi-automated Combat Operations Center (COC) which integrates the S-2, S-3, FSCC, and airspace control (air defense and air traffic regulation) operational functions. STA Information flows into the COC from all battalion and external sources for analysis and decision. Plans and action orders flow out to battalion elements and STA and target attack information and support requests to external commands.

Three-dimensional tactical information is available to all hands in the COC from a common data base in the information/data processor (computer). The battalion commander has access to this same information from anywhere (ground or air) in the battalion TSOR via the communications system. Manual information recording, storage and retrieval, and data computation or numeric data analysis are eliminated or greatly reduced. The handling of STA information and fire support request-response actions are largely automated. I believe the visualized COC system equipment and procedures will increase the productivity of staff officers and enlisted men by a factor of two or more and reduce operational process time by an equal amount.

The Infantry Company has three 40-man platoons and a 15-man headquarters. Added to the headquarters is an Operations Section of one officer and three men to provide continuous support to the CO on STA and fire support matters.

The Search and Attack Squadron has a headquarters, flight operations, and aviation maintenance and supply. Its capabilities for search and attack complement and extend those of battalion ground elements resulting in an integrated tri-dimensional search and attack system of maximum versatility and effectiveness. When the survivability threat is high, aircraft remain within battalion or neutral airspace. When it is low they operate at will out to about 20 kilometers from battalion ground elements. The squadron may be based and operate from one or more locations in the battalion area, at one or more locations in the brigade area, or aflpat from LPD/LPH ships.

Squadron Hq. provides normal squadron administration, supply and maintenance of ground equipment, and local security for squadron installations. Flight Operations is equipped with 13 VTOL aircraft and is responsible for the planning and conduct of all aircraft operations. Six of the aircraft are STA configured and six are target attack configured. The former are visualized as a follow-on OH-6 with appropriate sensors and the latter as a follow-on AH-1J. (A single basic aircraft that could be configured for either mission through quick attachment avionicand ordnance pods would be ideal.) The remaining aircraft is a small command configured ship for use by the battalion commander or staff. A troop lift capacity for one platoon would be very handy for tactical maneuver during combat but was not included at this time. Later analysis and experiment may show this to be essential. Aviation Maintenance and Supply provides flight line aircraft and avionics maintenance, receives and distributes Class HI-A and V-A, and stocks limited aircraft and avionics spares.

The STA Company has a small headquarters and five sections/platoons. One section is responsible for locating enemy indirect fire weapons and another for other discrete ground targets beyond platoon capabilities. A third section is responsible for airspace STA and a fourth for detection of electronic emitters of all types. The fifth section monitors the reports from remote unmanned sensors within or beyond the battalion TSOR.

The Cannon Battery has a headquarters and two semi-independent cannon platoons to enable it to cover a wider sector, engage two or more targets at once, provide continuous support while displacing, and to enhance survival. The Battery Headquarters prepares gun-laying data for the cannon platoons on a firing data computer from target information received from the battalion COC. When required, it establishes direct radio communication with a ground or air observer as directed by the COC. Each cannon platoon has a small platoon headquarters which is capable of manual firing data preparation, two cannon sections and an ammunition section. The cannon should be a rapid fire howitzer-type weapon with a maximum range of about 20 kilometers when using RAP munitions. If forecast increases in projectile effectiveness are not fully realized, three cannons per platoon may be required.

The Guided Missile Battery supplements the capabilities of the Cannon Battery by providing a weapon with a significantly larger lethal area per round and point accuracy through a terminal guidance capability. A common missile is required for both the battery and the Search and Attack Squadron so that a platoon STA team or squadron STA aircraft may request and guide missile fire from either source. (This is technically feasible now.) Missile range should be about 10 kilometers in the guided mode-longer in the ballistic mode. Battery organization and operation is the same as for the Cannon Battery.

Logistic System

So far, this concept of a future FMF has concentrated on the tactical aspects of combat operations. This is proper as logistic and administrative doctrine, procedures and organization should be designed to support a desired tactical concept and not inhibit it, as is too often the case today. However, throughout system development I considered the supply and maintenance requirements in all combat scenarios analyzed. The conclusion in every case is that the present system is archaic, cumbersome and totally incapable of supporting search and attack operations. It should be junked and replaced with one that is a natural mate for the search and attack combat system in concept, design, and operation. The operational process times and procedures for both systems should be as nearly identical as possible.

The way to achieve this Utopian dream of swift and certain service support for the man in combat is to make that functional subsystem an analog of the fire support system. Both systems are basically request-and-delivery transportation systems. But what a difference in how they operate! When a forward observer or forward air controller asks the fire support system to deliver some goods (to a guy who did not ask for them), the system does a fire drill response and in minutes can be dumping tons of supplies at the specified delivery point. But if the same man asks for some goods for his own use, he may or may not get them, is not sure when or where he will get them-and the getting process is usually a painful and frustrating one.

Everyone on the battlefield knows that the fire support systems- artillery, air, and naval-will bust a gut to respond to his needs without quibble or cavil and thus they are honest systems based on mutual trust. Commanders do not hoard firepower, request more than they need so they will at least get some, or spend much of their time trying to find ways to outwit the system. The opposite is true of the supply system which is basically a dishonest system. From his first day in uniform a man learns to distrust the system, and so he hoards, over-requests, and when neither of these get him what he needs, he steals (euphemistically called midnight requisitioning) from the system or his neighbor. It is ironic that the system which delivers unwanted supplies to the enemy troops is so overwhelmingly superior to the one that delivers needed supplies to our own troops. It is also interesting to note that the good system delivers about 76 per cent of the daily supply tonnage in an amphibious assault to the discomfiture of the enemy, while the bad system often discomfits the friendly troops on delivering the remainder.1 (C'est la guerre).

Accordingly, I employed a request-response supply system whose operating doctrine, procedures and organization are modeled on those of the field artillery and close air support systems. Supply request procedures, starting at the platoon level, are similar to fire support requests and are divided into the same two classes, routine deliveries (planned fires) and emergency deliveries (target-of-opportunity fires). Standardized digital message formats are used to the greatest extent possible to reduce operational process times and benefit from automation. Supplies may be delivered by either ground or air vehicle, with air vehicles being the preferred means.

Within the battalion headquarters the S-1 and S-4 operate from a Support Operations Center (SOC) which is served by the same processor, data base, and communications systems as the COC. They operate in accordance with FDC/ FSCC/DASC "can do" principles rather than bureaucratic "wait one" papermill traditions. Supply is direct to the battalion's platoon or company units from brigade dumps, ashore or afloat. The battalion has an organizational maintenance level capability for ground equipment and flight line capability for aviation equipment (second echelon ground and intermediate aviation support are received from brigade).2

And with that I will conclude this prospectus on the future of tactical forces. I trust I have given a reasonably clear how and why picture of the evolutionary path they should follow. The heart of the message is this: Continuing technical advance makes new tactical concepts possible; technical advance should be guided by anticipatory operational and organizational concepts (especially on finite R&D budgets!), and future tactical forces should be developed as true combat systems (as defined earlier). I hope you will try your hand at it-no license is required.


The Marine Corps has made two unique and enduring contributions to the art of warfare in my lifetime. The first of these was the development and perfection of the amphibious assault. The second was the initial development (but not perfection, alas!) of the vertical envelopment concept. Both were clear visions of the future in which a superior operational concept was combined with a foreseen technical potential to create a victorious battlefield actuality. I think that the Corps now has the chance to continue this tradition of providing innovative leadership for the common defense by committing itself wholeheartedly to the exploration and development of tri-dimensional search and attack warfare concepts and forces. It will result in a force-in-readiness FMF that is not only ready to act when called upon, but is also able to act swiftly and decisively.

The Corps already has made a strong start in this direction through the excellent and growing program of future-oriented studies initiated at Headquarters by the Deputy Chief of Staff for RD&S. These exploratory studies will soon provide the body of basic information necessary for a broad and concerted effort to transform an ideal possibility into a working reality at the earliest practical time. And I repeat what I said at the beginning, this effort can succeed only if it is questing adventure fully shared by the whole community of Marines. From personal experience I can assure you that participation in this crusade will be as stimulating and invigorating as that earlier one of the Old Corps.

A final word: Face change like men. Some cherished institutions and practices are inevitably casualties in the continual process of change that typifies any vigorous, self-renewing society. When fact and logic clearly show that the proper place of some things is no longer on the battlefield but in history books, send them there (with honors) to join the Roman Legion, the British thin red line, the cavalryman's lance and sabre, and the aviator's leather helmet and goggles. For this often traumatic experience, draw both courage and consolation from St. Augustine's words, "Let those be angry with you who do not know with how much anguish truth is sought."

1. federal: 2.b.: "of or constituting a form of government in which power is distributed between a central authority and a number of constituent territorial units." Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, 1969.
1Ref. FM 101-10-1, Sept. 1969, Table 5-60.
2.I suggest that the urgent reformation of the logistic and administrative support systems be entrusted to artillerymen and CAS aviators. They have done a superior job in developing their delivery system and are free of the parsimonious antiquarian heritage that afflicts the supply support system.