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Force XXI

In Division XXI, brigades can move farther apart because they can see each other "virtually." An enemy attempting to exploit a gap between them can be discovered and destroyed in many ways. This was validated in the division AWE. However, dispersion's negative aspects were also clearly defined. In the years since its first wired-up experiments, the Army has equipped two divisions, the 4th Infantry and the 1st Cavalry, with high-speed digital gear.

The FORCE XXI interim division design was slightly smaller than the Army of Excellence division, totaling 15,820 people. Modifications included increased fire support to shape battle space, expanded reconnaissance and intelligence capabilities, greater consolidation of logistics support functions, and additional infantry. Technology issues were rampant. They included the creation of appliqué systems and a tactical internet, but these were only two of the more than seventy- five systems that were tested. All of the equipment was fragile and in the prototype stage. The problems with this new, untested equipment and the concomitant reduction in training time led to the relatively lackluster results in the TF XXI AWE at the NTC.

The speed of ground movement is an important limitation. The division could detect opportunity and crisis early, but if the commander decided to integrate ground forces into his response, he was limited by their movement time. In many cases, the commander did not maintain a ground reserve. Given the distance it must travel to exploit a situation, such a reserve would have had negligible influence. Additionally, even with the increased logistical knowledge, the supplies still had to be delivered, and they, too, were limited by the speed of ground transportation. These considerations limit the commander's freedom of action. As the Army considers the 21st century force, it must either increase ground speed or permanently accept this limitation.

In dispersing maneuver forces, Force XXI operations increased the value of its intelligence gathering and fire assets. These high-value assets (HVAs) were vulnerable to ground attack by small and light forces. With maneuver forces farther away, HVAs found themselves under constant threat of enemy attack. This forced brigade commanders to use combat forces in a security role. As the nature of the division becomes better defined, this tension between HVA, security, and combat maneuver forces will be an important issue.

Not the current Army force but the mid-term force projected for the early 21st century was the focus of most force design activity in the mid-to-late 1990s. That design project, titled Force XXI, began on 8 March 1994 when Chief of Staff of the Army, General Gordon R. Sullivan, directed the start of the major campaign effort to lead to the future Army in the early years of the next century. Progressing toward incremental realization at the year 2000, the Force XXI redesign was the last of the major operational Army reorganizations of the 20th century and would supersede the Army of Excellence which had been implemented in the mid-1980s.

The Force XXI project was a methodological departure from all previous such efforts in two revolutionary ways. It was the first force redesign effort in which a full panoply of newly-emergent, computer-driven constructive and virtual simulation methods, equipment, and software were joined to actual live field simulation to test and analyze new military unit designs. In addition, the multiyear Force XXI design effort was the first to invent and embody for those fighting units a linked, instantaneous, and common picture and awareness of the close and distant events of the unfolding battle of which they were part. "Digitization" was the rubric given this revolutionary emerging capability.

In 1993, TRADOC had written a new, more versatile, fundamental operational doctrine to fit the new strategic circumstances of a smaller, primarily U.S.-based force-projection Army. The command had additionally developed - and in August 1994 published - a concept for the Army of the rapidly approaching 21st century. That was TRADOC Pamphlet 525-5, Force XXI Operations, a further conceptual evolution from the force-projection and full-dimensional operations ideas of the 1993 doctrine. On the basis of the new post-Cold War doctrine, and with TRADOC's mid-future concept in formulation, Sullivan approved, on 12 April 1994, a "Joint Venture" mission which would be one of three multi-year axes of Force XXI. Led by TRADOC, Joint Venture was the project to redesign the operational Army on a new information-or-knowledge-basis. The second axis, led by Headquarters Department of the Army, was the redesign of the institutional Army. The third axis was guided by an Army Digitization Office. Guiding all three axes of the Force XXI campaign - at that time - was Sullivan's Louisiana Maneuvers Task Force established in March 1992.12

Army and TRADOC planners saw Force XXI - the Army to emerge between 2000 and 2010 - as a distinct change from the current force. They saw it as a new departure, an Army with a flexible engagement strategy structured in 21st century technology, knowledge-based, and built on capability, not threat projections. Its lethality, survivability, and operational tempo all would markedly increase. Shared "situational awareness" by its leaders and soldiers and real-time battlefield information would transform its offensive and defensive power.

The key development vehicle in planning was a division-sized Experimental Force, or EXFOR, for which TRADOC had prepared the concept in 1993. (The EXFOR was formally established in March 1995). It's main idea was the conversion of an existent brigade and division into a test bed to test-out and evolve into the desired future force designs. In December 1994, the Army had designated the 2d Armored Division (reflagged as the 4th Mechanized Infantry Division in January 1996)) at Fort Hood, Tex. as the EXFOR.

While the EXFOR was the experimental vehicle, digitization was the key to the whole vision of Force XXI. Digitization was literally defined as the uses and applications of computer keyboard-generated communications. It originated for the U.S. Army in the early 1990s in the testing out and early linking of digital systems on board Army vehicles and other equipment - a concept known as "horizontal technology integration." The concept of a digitized battlefield sprang from that emerging idea. In theory, the electronic linking of a real-time (or near-real-time) visual display of the ongoing battle to every unit and weapon system in a battle force permitted common situational awareness by all the soldiers and leaders engaged. The network of awareness allowed the commander to command, control, and synchronize all elements of his combat power with a knowledge and quickness far exceeding the enemy commander's.

Much preparatory work by the TRADOC Battle Laboratories preceded the Army Chief of Staff's formal launching of Force XXI. Between September 1992 and April 1994, TRADOC carried through a sequence of experiments and simulations to examine the emerging digitization concept. In the first of these in fall 1992, planners conducted live simulations with an M1A2 tank platoon in a field experiment at the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, Calif. Constructive and virtual simulations followed at the National Simulation Center at Fort Leavenworth in December 1992. A March 1993 experiment posed live simulations with a mini-combined arms team, followed in July that year by live simulations with a company-team at the NTC.

These preliminary tests led to the first of the TRADOC-fielded "advanced warfighting experiments" (AWE) in April 1994. Code-named Desert Hammer VI, the experiment took place during Rotation 94-07 at the NTC. In simulated and instrumented battle against the NTC's superbly trained opposing force (OPFOR), a brigade-level force from the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) was equipped with digitized displays of position location and communications that allowed forces to receive near-real-time information during the battle. Although imperfect in this first trial, Desert Hammer in effect proved the principle of digitization.15 Results of the experiment showed that troops failed to have ample time to train and that too much new equipment was fielded for troops to absorb so quickly. But the exercise released an avalanche of technological, organizational, doctrinal, and training implications, the addressing of which set the course for Force XXI planners over the next three and a half years. By the end of 1994, planners had outlined a series of AWEs to lead up to AWEs in 1997 to examine a digitized brigade - Task Force XXI - followed by a digitized division-Division XXI.16 Also in early 1995, General Sullivan released a prime directive setting forth the functions and organization of the EXFOR and the future activities of Force XXI.

Meanwhile, the TRADOC commander, General William W. Hartzog, who had succeeded General Franks in October 1994, advised the field of the many things the EXFOR would need in the coming year in order to meet the Force XXI milestones. Needed by 1 June 1996 were the division concept; tactics, techniques, and procedures for all units brigade and below; all items and plans to field-train the EXFOR in the latter part of 1996; organizational designs; communications and digital operations architecture; all applique hardware and software; and scenario, analysis, and data collection plans.

TRADOC completed and disseminated the Force XXI Division Operations Concept on 12 June 1995. The concept served as the foundation for development of division organizational design in the following months and was grounded in the new operational environment of information technology. The division operations concept also figured as the basis for a series of how-to-fight seminars sponsored by TRADOC, beginning in August 1995.

Important to the evolving definition of the future Army were the AWEs of 1995. Conducted by the Battle Labs, they addressed theater missile defense; the mobile strike force concept; and the digital connection of armored units and of dismounted forces.

The Theater Missile Defense AWE, conducted at Fort Bliss, Tex. in the spring, was one of several related joint and Army exercises tagged Roving Sands. The TRADOC AWE examined the integration of four theater missile defense operating elements: attack operation; active defense; passive defense; and C4I. Live, constructive, and virtual simulations were featured in a variety of tactical scenarios and in five operations phases: early-entry operations; defensive operations; transition; decisive operations; and recovery. The Roving Sands exercise integrated national, joint, and Army capabilities into a cohesive theater missile defense force.

The annual Command and General Staff College student simulation exercise held at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and known as Prairie Warrior, served Joint Venture experimentation aims each spring in 1995-1996. The AWE Portion of Prairie Warrior was known as Mobile Strike Force, a futuristic division using 2010 technology and operating concepts. Supported by TRADOC's study in early 1995 of a "middleweight" fighting force, Prairie Warrior 95 and 96 examined staff organization, evaluated division-level operational concepts and helped validate Force XXI design principles. Using a variety of simulations, the exercise provided insight on all Army echelons from theater to battalion.

The third of the 1995 AWEs was Focused Dispatch, conducted at Fort Knox and the Western Kentucky Training Area in August. The primary purpose of the exercise was to examine how digital connections might enhance an armored formation's fire support, intelligence, logistics, and battle command, to determine whether enhancements in lethality, survivability, and tempo would result. Focus Dispatch consisted of three constructive simulations, one virtual simulation, and a final exercise linking live and virtual simulation conducted concurrently at the two sites aforementioned. The exercise was an important way-point between Desert Hammer VI and the Task Force XXI experiment to come in 1997.

Warrior Focus, for light forces, was the fourth AWE of 1995, the purpose of which was to identify the best application of digitization and of "own the night" technologies for dismounted infantry. Conducted in the fall of 1995, the AWE featured constructive and live simulations at Fort Drum, N.Y. and culminated at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La. Key to the experiment was interoperability between dismounted and mounted forces. Inclusion of a digitized, mounted team from the EXFOR at Fort Hood, Tex. supported the interoperability experiments. Own the night technologies proved very effective in both low-and mid-intensity conflict and were judged to be essential in providing significant operational and force protection improvements across the force.

The Force XXI operational concept was the result of the integration of experimentation, experience, and conceptual thought. The concept described how planners thought they would want to fight and conduct military operations. But it was not a finished product. What remained to be done was the detailed developmental work that would lead to an Army capable of executing the Force XXI concepts. Central to the continuing developmental work was a brigade level AWE (Task Force XXI) at the NTC in March 1997 and a computer-driven division level AWE (Division XXI) in November 1997 using the computers at Fort Leavenworth.

In the early months of 1998, General Hartzog and his Joint Venture planners were finishing the analysis of what had happened in the division AWE. One of their first conclusions was that the Army and TRADOC knew better how to do the AWEs than they had earlier.Another discovery was that the smaller and more mobile command posts planned for Division XXI would work so long as the information management systems performed as well as they had in the latest AWEs. Hartzog also observed that war in the future would be joint to such a degree that the Army needed to support joint experimentation to the extent that the command could. On the negative side, the TRADOC commander believed that here was a considerable amount of "human engineering" still to be done. "We continue to see that humans are different and they deal with this information in different ways."

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:35:55 ZULU