Rapid Decisive Operations (RDO)
US forces may be either opposed or unopposed. Opposed operations require a lethal and survivable forcible entry capability with forces prepared to fight immediately upon entry. Unopposed operations may afford an opportunity following arrival in theater to continue to build combat power, to train, and to acclimate.
An opposed entry requires combat operations to land deploying forces in the theater. If the circumstances are right, the entry and combat operations stages could combine in a coup de main, achieving the strategic objectives in a single major operation. In opposed operations, units must have sufficient combat capability to fight immediately upon arrival in-theater. Units are configured tactically, and are under command and control of the force commander, from origin to destination. In cases where objectives are limited or AO is small, it may be possible for early entry forces to accomplish missions with limited support of follow-on forces. In most cases, the immediate focus of early entry forces will be seizure of a lodgment area to expedite unopposed entry of follow-on forces. Critical planning considerations are the time and force needed to secure lodgment, and the speed of subsequent transition to unopposed entry. The challenge is balancing the competing requirements of force protection and force projection. The operation is at greatest risk during opposed entry operations in which units move directly to combat operations. Often this will be the first contact between US forces and the enemy. Commanders make maximum use of joint capabilities to ensure early lethality and security of the force by engaging the enemy in depth. Early entry forces may have to move immediately to combat operations to take advantage of an opportunity, protect the force, or even conduct retrograde operations to gain time for additional force buildup. Situations are likely to arise with little or no advance warning. Opposed entry operations will require the full synchronization of joint capabilities in order to place large ground forces in the theater.
Whenever possible, US forces seek unopposed entry, entering the theater peacefully with the assistance of the host nation. Early deploying units may flow through airports or seaports into a lodgment area. From this area, they will prepare to assist forward-presence or host nation forces, protect the force, reconfigure, build combat capability, train, and acclimate to the environment. Entry during operations other than war will normally be unopposed. However, even in an apparently benign entry operation, protection of the force remains a critical command consideration. In unopposed deployments, personnel routinely move by air, while most unit equipment moves by surface transport. Units are divided into separate groups of passengers and cargo; commanders retain command, but no longer exercise control over multiple parts of units moving by different modes. Various elements of deploying force arriving in-theater must reach specific locations and reassemble into tactical units before unit commanders can reestablish control.
Recent campaigns, including those against Iraq (December 1998) and Serbia (March-June 1999) have demonstrated that accomplishing US strategic objectives in the early 21st century may require more complex methods to achieve timely operational and strategic success. The April 1999 Defense Planning Guidance established a requirement to develop new joint warfighting concepts to address a variety of challenging and important future operational missions. Rapid Decisive Operations (RDO) relates to compelling an adversary to undertake certain actions or denying the adversary the ability to coerce or attack others. Although many RDO principles will apply to larger-scale, longer-lasting operations, the RDO concept is not intended as a preliminary phase of a protracted campaign. This RDO concept is founded in the key constructs of JV2010 as amplified by the May 1997 Capstone Concept for Future Joint Operations (CFJO). The RDO concept focuses on how a highly deployable, lethal, agile, survivable, and supportable joint force can rapidly defeat an adversary's operational and strategic centers of gravity. The essence of the concept emphasizes situational understanding, immediate response capability, speed, and massing of effects rather than forces. Distinguished from traditional operations, this approach usually will not focus on seizing and occupying territory in the battlespace except for a limited purpose, such as to generate an otherwise unobtainable opportunity for precision engagement, to secure a key decisive point, or to protect the civilian populace. Forces inserted for these purposes would have the capability to be quickly withdrawn and employed elsewhere. An RDO campaign typically will be characterized by immediate, continuous, and overwhelming operations to shock and paralyze the adversary, destroy their ability to coordinate offensive and defensive operations, fragment their capabilities, and foreclose their most dangerous options.
The Forcible Entry Operations concept describes how the joint force commander can rapidly deploy and employ forces to penetrate the adversary's territory to conduct operations or to establish theater entry points required to deploy decisive land, air, and sea forces for follow-on combat operations. The requirement to efficiently deploy and effectively employ joint combat power against adversaries adept at denying access in theater and elsewhere by asymmetric means is a prerequisite and critical function of military strategy in the future. The set-piece, sequential pattern of prehostilities, lodgment, build-up, and decisive combat phasing will be replaced with the cumulative effects of bringing joint asymmetric strengths to bear against the enemy's weaknesses in a decisive operation to gain entry into his territory while simultaneously protecting critical US vulnerabilities. The full integration of air, land, sea, and special operations forces in theater, supported by space and information operations, will provide the joint means to overcome resistance as all aspects of joint military power are deployed. The need to rapidly bring overwhelming force to bear at the critical point by multiple means, to include Forcible Entry Operations, must be planned for and executed in such a manner that the enemy can never consolidate its military gains. A synergistic joint force will capitalize on agility, adaptability, and interaction to establish the timing and tempo of operations to insure maximum efficiency and lethality while allowing the least advantage to the enemy.
Future adversaries, having learned from Desert Shield and Desert Storm, may no longer wait for the US to establish the parameters for a set piece battle. They may employ a robust intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) architecture for targeting and combat assessment. They may combine a well-developed cruise and ballistic missile capability that allows for firing salvoes on in-theater bases and staging areas. They may also develop highly integrated air defense systems (IADS) to protect their offensive capability and infrastructure when the US begins to strike. In addition, their maritime activities may be used try to deny access to the region further exacerbating US attempts to bring force to bear. Recognizing that US forces integrate information to provide a dynamic planning and execution system with a heavy reliance on space-based ISR systems, they may use all necessary means to negate US systems while protecting their own. In the face of these future challenges, the US Joint Force of the 21 st Century will have to be more flexible and have greater speed and lethality to conduct Forcible Entry Operations on a Global Scale.
The Forcible Entry Operations concept differs from the Rapid Decisive Operations concept in that RDO is an end-to-end concept that results in decisive operational-level victory. FEO is an enabling concept that sets the conditions for a major contested invasion of enemy territory that will help achieve decisive strategic victory. Forcible Entry Operations may be an element of or a follow-on to RDO. Like RDO, Forcible Entry Operations require elements of all the other supporting concepts to be successful: Focused Logistics, Enabling Early Decisive Operations, Attack Operations Against Critical Mobile Targets, Joint Interactive Planning, Common Relevant Operational Picture, Adaptive Joint Command and Control, Strategic Deployment, and Information Operations.
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