"The Conventional Arms Balance, Part 2: The U.S. Army Must CounterSoviet Gains"

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"The Conventional Arms Balance, Part 2: The U.S. Army Must CounterSoviet Gains"

April 11, 1986 16 min read Download Report
Kim Holmes
Former Executive Vice President
Kim R. Holmes was the Executive Vice President at The Heritage Foundation.

(Archived document, may contain errors)


50 3 April 11, 1986 THE CONVENTIONAL ARMS BALANCE PART 2 THE US ARMY MUST COUNTER SOVltl,GAlNS INTRODUCTION The United States Army suffered a severe crisis in the 1970s. The anti-military mood and defense cuts of the pos t-Vietnam War era had severely impaired the Army's ability to fight the ten divisions based in the United States was regarded as combat ready. to last only ten or twenty days in a major conflict with the Soviet Union In 1980, only one of Spare parts were in such short supply that the Amy could hope Internal Army reforms and the Reagan Administrationls force modernization plan have ended the Armyls post-Vietnam War slump problems remain.

Army's new light infantry divisions will perform. For another, an anti cipated personnel shortage at the end of the decade and the continuing underutilization of reserve components threaten to weaken the Armyls manpower base. The Armyls senior officer corps, moreover is much too large. And the Army lacks an adequate short-ra n ge air defense system and light anti-tank weapon But For one thing, it is not yet clear what mission the These problems must be resolved. The strength of Soviet military power--particularly conventional land forces--grows daily. At the same time, the Pent agon cannot count on annually increased funding.

As such, more military capability must be squeezed out of the*Army's men, women, and materiel. This may require reforms in the way the Army prepares, organizes, and outfits its forces 1. This is the second in a series of Heritage BacknrounderS on the conv e ntional arms balance. The first, Backgrounder No. 489 (February 21, 1986 examines "The Threatening Soviet Lead." Future studies will deal with the Navy, Air Force, and NATO. Specifically, the Pentagon, the Army, and Ccngress should: 1 prepare for the comi n g manpower shortage by strer.gthening the All-Volunteer Force and reforming the Army Resenme system; 2 carefully reconsider the goal of organizing a to'cal of five light infantry divisions; 3) ensure that the Army and the Air Force have sufficient forces a nd capabilties to implement the AirLand Battle doctrine effectively; 4) hccelerate airlift and sealift programs to ensure that the Army can reach distant trouble spots rapidly and sustain combat once it arrives; 5) purchase the Franco-German Milan 2 light anti-armor weapon to replace the ineffective Dragon anti-armor system; and 6) find a replacement, using as much off-the-shelf technology as possible, for the cancelled Sgt. York short-range air defense system.

Making these changes also will require that C ongress and the Pentagon change their attitudes about defense budget priorities budget battles the Army and ground force missions in general have been pushed consistently to a back seat to the other Services and their missions. If the U.S. is to meet the g rowing threat of the Soviet land forces, these priorities will have to be changed, at least until Army shortcomings are resolved In THE BALANCE OF LAND POWER The greatest gap in the U.S.-Soviet balance of power is in land The Soviets outnumber the U.S. in every cacegory of land forces. Soviet troop levels far exceed those of the U.S., though the imbalance is less striking when each side's European allies are thrown in power--weapons, division equivalcnts, and manpower--except air support helicopters and am p hibious forces. And the imp:.-oving technological performance of Soviet hardware is reducing the edge in quality previously enjoyed by U.S. military weapons and equipment Soviet numerical advantages alone, however, are. not what give the Warsaw Pact its d e cisive edge in Europe. Since NATO is a defensive alliance, it can afford some margin of numerical imbalance. Rather it is the more difficult to measure indices of military power, such as geographical and operational advantages, that make Soviet-Warsaw Pac t numerical superiority so critical. By virtue of its purely defensive doctrine, for example, NATO has ceded to the Warsaw Pact the incalculable advantages enjoyed by the side starting hostilities. The Warsaw Pact also does not have the resupply and logist i cal problems of the U.S., which must transport large quantities of troops and materiel 2. For a detailed breakdown of the numerical balance of land power, see Kim R. Holmes The Conventional Arms Balance: Part 1, The Threatening Soviet Lead," Heritage Foun d ation Backnrounder No. 489, February 21, 1986 2over the Atlantic Ocean. Other Warsaw Pact advantages include better weapons standardization and an enforced practical unanimity in peacetime that saves the Warsaw Pact from the many political squabbles that beset NATO.

Another Soviet-Warsaw Pact advantage is in strategy. The ground forces of the Soviet Union and its allies are organized, equipped, and trained to conduct blitikrieq-like offensive operations; whether against NATO in Europe or against China in t he Far East. Soviet tank motorized rifle, and airborne divisions are highly mobile forces designed to surprise the enemy, capture the initiative in battle, and strike deep behind enemy lines ARMY PROGRAMS The primary aim of U.S. Amy programs is to redress the imbalance of land power with the Soviet Union. Initiatives to achieve this goal fall into four broad categories: 1) the modernization of weapon systems; 2) the improvement of the manpower base; 3) the reorgan'ization of forces to make them more effect ive; and 4) the reform of the Army's fighting doctrine to compensate for Soviet ground force advantages.

Modernization The Army modernization program under the Reagan Administration concentrates heavily on countering the Soviet ground forces threat in Euro pe. Among these-efforts are M-1 Abrams Tank. The M-1's superior agility, advanced fire control system, and improved armor will greatly enhance the armor capability of the Army. The M-1 hflps offset the 4 to 1 Soviet advantage over the U.S. in tanks. At a p roduction rate of 70 tanks per month, the Afmy plans to reach its goal of fielding 7,467 M-1s by the early 1990s mechanized infantry and cavalry forces with better tactical mobility and armored protection vehicle commander and gunmen in a two-manned turre t , and is armed with Bradlev Fiuhtina Vehicle 1BFVI. The Bradley will provide It carries a crew of nine, including the 3. The Warsaw Pact, which includes the Soviet Union's East European allies, enjoys more than a 2 to 1 advantage over NATO in tanks 4. Cas p ar W. Weinberger, Annual ReDort to t he Conpress: Fiscal Year 1986 (Washington D.C.: Department of Defense, 1985 p. 139 3-tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided (TOW) misbsiles and a 25mm automatic cannon that fires armor-piercing rounds production rate of 75 vehicles per month, the Army plans to buy 6,882 Bradleys (both the standard M-2 and M-3 cavalry versions) by the early 1990s At a Many technical experts betieve that the Bradley is overly vulnerable to anti-armor fire.

Bradley is better protect ed, more flexible, and with its TOW anti-tank guided missiles, more lethal to armored vehicles than the M-113 armored personnel carrier But.the Army claims. that the Attack Helico~ters. The new attack helicopter, the AH-64/Apache, is a quick reacting, air b ornf tank killer capable of operating in darkness and adverse weather. The Army plans to acquire a total of 1,206 Apache helicopterp delivered and 675 approved for production. So far 28 have been New UH-60/Blackhawk utility helicopters are being added as well to improve U.S. tactical mobility; these aircraft will be able to deliver 50 percent more cargo and troops over grEater distances at higher speeds than the old UH-l/Huey helicopter.

Air Defense. The 'Patriot all-altitude air defense missile will provi de NATO forces with an improved long-range air defense that can deliver several missiles to its targets simultaneously, even under jamming conditions. Fifteen fire units with 317 missiles have been deliverfid so far, including two battalions already deplo y ed in Europe. The Army plans to deploy 103 fire units with 5,184 missiles 5. Tom Donnelly House Committee Verdict on Bradley: Not Guilty Defense News February 24, 1986, p. 10 6. Weinberger, Annual ReDort Fiscal Year 1986 go. cit, p. 139 7. Donnelly, 9 cit 8. Association of the United States Army Facts from AUSA: AH64(Apache 9. Weinberger, Annual ReDort Fiscal Year 1986, p ciL, p. 141 10. Ibid 11. Ibid 4Mannower The Army's manpower base has been greatly improved. The Army reached 100 percentlzof its recruit ing goals in 1985 and expects to do the same this year. The Army Reserves have increased in size, with the active or selected resources growing 25.2 percent since 1980 while thE inactive or individual. ready reserves are up 18 percent.

The educational level of enlistees, moreover, has improved enormously.

Army personnel.

National Training CenteE at Fort Irwin grew from 16 per year in 1982 to 24 per year in 1985.

One of the Amyls manpower reform ideas is a new manning system.

Past practice rotated indivi duals between home bases in the U.S. and assignments overseas. The new manning system will replace or rotate company and battalion-sized units instead of individuals. The aim is to keep troops together as a unit as long as possible to reduce personnel tur n over, and by so doing, strengthen the bonding not only between the officers and men but Between the men themselves And modest improvements have been made in the training of The number of Army battalions rotating through the Force Structure Initiatives The Army is changing the way it organizes its forces. This program comprises two major initiatives: 1) the reduction of 'lheavyll armored and mechanized infantry divisions from around 19,000 troops each to 17,000; and 2) the conversion of three traditional un mechanized divisions into smaller, light infantry divisions. (LID with as few as 10,000 troops scratch.

Two LIDS are being created from The reduction in size of the Amyls heavy divisions will require a reorganization of the command structure over specific weapon systems. Some of the heavy divisions' combat support, such as air defense and heavy artillery, will be taken away from the divisions and given to the higher corps command. A %orps pool1I of artillery and air defense units will thus be available to a ny number of divisions if and when they are needed. By relieving the divisions of cumbersome 12. Caspar Weinberger, Annual ReDort to Co npress. Fiscal Year 1987 (Washington, D.C Department of Defense, 1986 Table III.A.1, p. 139 13. Ibid, p. 144 14. Weinbe rger, A OD. c it, p. 34 5 combat support units, the Army's new I1heavy1l divisions will thus be able to move more quickly and decisively than in the past.

The Armyls new light divisions are designed primarily for low-intensity combat and for quick deployme nt to troubled spots in all parts of the world. In contrast to a standard U.S. unmechanized infantry division of 18,486 troops, the new light infantry division will contain only 10,702 men.and.wil1 have far 1ess.equipment than the standard heavy division.

The Army plans to airlift these new divisions anywhere in the world with no more than 500 sorties by C-141B cargo planes: this is about one-third the 1,443 sorhies required to move a standard unmechanized division by air. Thus whereas it would take twelve days to send a-standard division to hhe Persian Gulf, it would take only four days for a light division five active light infantry divisions eighteen rather than sixteen divisions: ten heavy, five light, and three designed for special missions such as Ko r ea or air assault The Army plans to create The result will be an Army of Land Power Doctrine The Army has a new doctrine for employing land power: the AirLand Battle plan, a joint Army and Air Force doctrine, which applies to Army operations everywhere in the world at the corps level of command and below. Instead 0f.a static, attrition-type warfare based on linear lines of battle, the AirLand Battle doctrine envisages fighting and moving rapidly along alfluid battle front by making penetrations deep into e n emy territory. Its purpose is to overwhelm numerically superior forces by confusing and outmaneuvering them uses of firepower, maneuver, and electronic warfare are intended to Imaginative deceive, dis-kpt, and delay- enemy units in order eventually to des troy them.

REMAINING PROBLEMS Potential Shortaaes in Mamower The Army is anticipating a serious manpower shortage. Because the baby boom generation is aging, the number of eligible recruits 15. Information provided by U.S. Army 16. Ibid 17. John M. Collins , US.-Soviet Militarv Balance 1980-1985 (Washington, D.C., New York Oxford, London, Toronto, Sydney, Frankfurt: Pergamon-Brassey's, 1985) p. 109 6will diminish rapidly toward the end of the decade example, the pool of eligible recruits in the 18- to 24-ye a r-013 age group is estimated to be 2.5 million lower than current levels 1995 it will be 4 million lower. At the same time, the increasingly technical sophistication of the Army's weapons will demand an ever higher quality of recruit. There is a question, then, of whether the Army will be able to maintain its current peacetime strength in the early 1990s In i987, for By Armv Reserve Weaknesses Many improvements have been made in the Army Reserve system the continued low availability of proper equipment, ma npower, and training has led some analysts to question whether the Army Reserves and National Guard are really ready to fight.

Office study released last November, for example, warned that, because of'problems in reserve unit readiness, there could be a sh ortfall of 30 parcent in units needed'for the.first 30 days of a European war. This could be decisive in a.major confrontation with the Soviets. Reserve components make up half of the Army's combat organization and two-thirds of its units for combat suppo r t (e.g engineers) and combat service support (e.g supply and maintenance But A Congressional Budget The Army Natioaal Guard will be short around 44,000 trained soldiers this year. Though lower than in the past, these shortfalls could hamper the ability of the Army to mobilize rapidly for war.

Such inadequacy of the reserve system could combine with the manpower shortfalls at the end of the decade to emasculate the readiness and combat capability of the U.S. Army Bloated Officer Corns The Army officer corps is too large. There are many bright dedicated officers in the Army, but the bloated staff structure hinders their ability to reach their full potential as combat officers. For example 18. Martin Binkin, America's Volunteer Armv: Promess and Prosoects (Wa shington, D.C The Brookings Institution, 1984 p. 29 19. Henry Mohr, "Neglect Hinders Reserve Forces," The Washinaton Times, December 23 1985 20. ManDower Reauirements ReDort FY 19

86. Vol 3: Force Readiness Reuort (Washington D.C.: Department of Defense, 1 985 p. 111-26 7 1) In 1984 the Army had 17 divisional command slots for major genera+.s and a handful'of operational staff positionT2 at that level. Competing for these were 140 major generals. The vast majority, having failed to get a command, became ove r ly involved in administrative and programming work. The result is a top-heavy bloated command structure incapable of acting with imagination or speed 2) In 1984 the Army's Materiel Development and Readinegs Command employed 10,850 Army personnel, most of whom were officers. This figure is much too high. Inflated research and development commands often result in the development ob weapons that are unreliable and too complex for ground combat forces.

The Licrht Infantrv Division Most military analysts agree that the Army needs light infantry divisions how they are to be organized and outfitted three points They disagree, however, on how gany are required and on Complaints center on 1) That the light divisions do not have the weapon capabilities This could de f gat the Army's to force their way into a combat zone purpose of fielding them quickly ahead of other units 2) That the light dizisions are incapable of lasting in combat for more than three days. If rushed to a trouble spot, they could be defeated before r eplacements and supplies arrive 3) That the Marines are better suited for many (though certainly not all) rapid deployment tasks because they have the air power naval-based support power, and cargo backups that would enable them to 21. Edward N. Luttwak, T he Pentagon and the Art of War (New York: Institute for Contemporary Studies/Simon and Schuster, I984 p. 195 22. Ibid 23. Ibid pp. 180-183 24. Ibid 25. "Army Trains Light Infantrymen for Speed, Stealth," Detroit News, December 28, 1985 p. 16c 26. Conversa t ion with Jeffrey Record, February 26, 1986, Washington, D.C 27 Army Trains Light Infantrymen OD. cit 8force their of time way into a combat zone and sustain combat for long periods Deficiencies for AirLand Battle A potential problem is that the AirLand Ba ttle doctrine's requirements for centralized command and perfectly operating advanced technologies might be too great to function reliably in.combat.

Moreover so far, the Army and Air Force do not have adequate intelligence processing capabilities or suffi cient numbers of ground forces, tactical fighters, precision-guided missiles, and special operation forces to perform28successfully the highly mobile operations required by AirLand Battle.

Weaknesses In Combat CaBabilitv There are a number of areas of com bat capability in which the Army is weak, including Airlift. The Army is particularly dependent on the Air Force to rush its troops and equipment to distant trouble spots currently does not have enough long-range cargo planes to meet the Army's strategic a irlift requirements eliminate airlift.shortfalls until the late 1990s mobility, in that sealift moves more than 90 percent of Army equipment and supplies percent sealift deficiency by fiscal year 1988 The U.S The Air Fohce has.no plans to Sealift. The Arm y is highly dependent on sealift for strategic A Pentagon study warns that thera will be a 20 to 25 Lack of Liuht Anti-Armor Ca~abilitv. The U.S. Army lacks an effective portable lightweight anti-tank missile system for the infantry and ineffective missile s , but efforts to find a 6eplacement for the Dragon have been costly and to date unsuccessful The lightweight Dragon anti-tank missile system is outdated Improvements have been made in long-range anti-tank 28. Collins, go. cit p. 109 29 U.S. Air Force Airl i ft Master Plan (Washington, D.C U.S. Air Force, 1983). Also see Kim R. Holmes, "Closing the Military Airlift Gap," Heritage Foundation Backarounder No. 482, January 23, 1986 30. Armed Forces Journal, July 1984, p 88. The "Sealift Study" is a classified wo r k conducted by the Office of the Secretary of Defense in March 1984 31 Infantry Still Can't Kill Tanks," The Washinnton Post January 13, 1986 9Lack of Sufficient Short-Ranae Air Defense Capability. The cancellation of the ill-fated Sgt. York mobile battle f ield anti-aircraft gun was a setback for Army plans to improve its combat air defense capabilities adequate short-range air defense system for the 20mm Vulcan anti-aircraft gun whose short range makes it useless against the Soviet Hind attack helicopter o f advanced anti-aircraft missiles capable of hitting targets out of the gunmen's line of sight, the selection of an existing missile system supplemented by an air defense gun, the fitting of an Army vehicle with Stinger anti-aircraft missiles,32and the imp r ovement of short-range air defense command and control How fast this plan will be turned into reality, however, remains to be seen, as it is highly complex and still requires research. The danger is that more time will be wasted developing and testing new systems and technologies while the Soviet air threat continues to grow The Army still desperately needs an It also needs a replacement Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger has called for development RECOMMENDATIONS AND PROPOSALS Prepare for Manpower Cri s is. The Administration should consider improving the manpower base of the All-Volunteer Force by: 1) expanding recruiting efforts: 2) extending the standard tour of duty 3) reducing turnover by granting use of reenlistment bonuses: and 4) attracting a hig h er quality recruit by providing educational benefits such as the GI Bill. In the meantime, the Pentagon should consider expanding the active components of the Army Reserves. To do this would require changes in the way the Reserves are organized. A number of European models for this may be useful battalions slotted for filling or llrounding'l out active units as early reinforcement units complethd their toar of active duty to an immediate recall status for a 12-month period.

Secretary of Defense James H. We bb's idea of an annual call-up of inactive reserves to improve unit readiness for combat One is to use reserve Another idea is to assign units that have just The Pentagon also should try Assistant 32. Tom Donnelly Weinberger Approves 5-Part Plan for DIVAD System Replacement Defense News, February 10, 1986, pp. 1, 43 33. Steven L. Canby and Patrick J. Garvey, "Accelerating Mobilization: More Dividends at Less Cost," unpublished manuscript, March 1984, pp. 8-26 10 - Reduce Size of Officer Corns. The Pentagon should reduce by 15 percent each the size of the Army's headquarters staff and the staff of the Secretary of the Army. A commitme:.it by the Army to reduce the number of senior officers by 10 percent over a fixed period of time should be made as well.

Ret hink the Five Liaht Infantrv. Divisions Goal..The Army should reconsider whether it needs five light infantry divisions to accomplish its low-intensity combat mission some light infantry forces in the Rangers and Green Berets. And the 82nd Airborne Divisi on is a rapid deployment force more capable than the proposed light infantry divisions of sustaining combat.

Revising the five light infantry division goal should be done only after careful consideration. It very well may be that the diversity of combat mi ssions in Third World low-intensity conflicts will require that all five light infantry divisions be outfitted and specially trained for combat in such regions of the world as the Persian Gulf and Central America The Army already h'as Rectifv Force Defici e ncies of AirLand Battle Doctrine. The Administration and Congress should ensure that the Army and the Air Force have sufficient intelligence procisssing capabilities, fighter aircraft, precision-guided munitions, and ground forces to implement the AirLand Battle doctrine.

Soviet's attempts to counter AirLand Battle doctrine by strengthening their first-line assault forces, which could possibly disrupt and eventually defeat the Army's mobile gromd operations with a quick thrust into Western Europe The Army also should keep abreast of the Accelerate Airlift Procrram. To reash the Pentagon's goal of eliminating shortfalls in airlift capability as soon as possible, the Air Force should consider purchasing additional C-5B Galaxy and KC-10 Extender cargo planes instead of the new C-

17. C-5Bs and KC-10s are already in production and can be acquired sooner and at significantly lower acquisition cost than the C-17, which is still in the engineering phase of development and will not reach full operation until 1991.

Full Fundina for Naw Sealift Proarams. Congress should provide full funding for the Navy's sealift expansion. This includes deploying more active duty cargo ships, the expansion of the reserve 34. To create two new light infantry divisions without expandi ng the Army's size will require the addition of some 21,000 new active duty slots, which most likely will be created by moving active duty combat and service support units into the reserves, to make room for the light infantry division's active duty slots . This is a trade-off imposed by real world manpower constraints, but it must be realized that the cost could be reduced capability to support Army combat units in the field 11 - cargo ship fleet, and the modification of cargo ships &o facilitate the unloa ding of equipment under hazardous conditions.

Buv the Franco-German Milan 2 Anti-Tank WeaDon. To help overcome the Soviet Union's superiority in tanks and armored vehicles the Army should buy the Franco-German Milan 2 portable anti-tank missile system as s oon as possible as a replacement for the poorly performing Dragon. The Milan.2 is-vastly-superior to the Dragon in terms of range, speed, penetration of armor, accuracy, and reliability.

ReBlace the Seraeant York Anti-Aircraft Svstem. The Army, the Pentagon, and Congress should find a new mobile anti-aircraft gun as soon as possible without bogging down in research and development.

There are many off-the-shelf mobile air defense systems to choose from, including the British Aerospace-Norden Tracked Rapier air defense system, the Franco-German Roland 11, the Martin Marietta-Oerlikon air defense system, the Swedish Bofors RBS-70, and the French Shahine anti-aircraft weapon system CONCLUSION The U.S. Army has improved vastly since the bleak days of the The T h e Pentagon late 1970s. But much remains to be done infantry divisions needs to be clarified. Force deficiencies need to be rectified to implement the Armyls AirLand Battle doctrine size of the Army's senior officer corps needs to be reduced anti-tank and a ir defense weapons need to be bought needs to prepare for an impending manpower crunch I And the reserve system needs to be reformed The role of the light New All these measures are not only achievable but capable of enhancing the Army's ability to fight.

Kim R. Holmes, Ph.D.

Policy Analyst 35. Weinberger, Annual ReDort Fiscal Year 1987, PD. cit, pp. 242-244 12


Kim Holmes

Former Executive Vice President