Having created an Armor Battalion of the Future, it is time to look at the Armored Cavalry Squadron of the Future. Instead of breaking this up into multiple posts, we are going to dive into the deep end.
The mission of the Armored Cavalry Squadron is to provide not just reconnaissance and security capabilities to a higher headquarters. The US Army just released its WayPoint 2028 concept for the return to division sized units of action, capable of fighting peer adversaries on a bigger scale than we have in the past. The Army envisions five different formats, of which, the Heavy Division and the Penetration Division are equipped with armored forces. Both of these two envision having a divisional cavalry squadron.
A return to divisional units of action also brings the role of the corps into the tactical focus. A war in Eastern Europe, or the Korean Peninsula, or frankly any battlefield larger than 50 by 50 miles is going to require a corp sized force. In the past, the cavalry regiment has been the reconnaissance and security element for corps. Currently, we have lost the cavalry regiments to brigades that merely carry the name and not the capability. The WayPoint 2028 divisions have not been fully developed in concept, so there is time to discuss and submit proposed organizations.
Both the Heavy Division and the Penetration Division are purposed for fighting an enemy with serious combat capabilities. An enemy force that meets that definition tends to also come with real estate for a large battlefield. At the same time, the likelihood of tackling a combat crisis with as much economy of force we can possibly get away with is to be expected. The resulting force to terrain ratio will require a cavalry formation capable of protecting against enemy efforts to exploit weaker areas.
There are two main considerations behind the proposed Armored Cavalry Squadron of the Future. The first is the need to fight for information. The squadron must be robust. In particular, individual troops must be robust enough to fight and win against even powerful enemy combat formations. Capability and delegation must be front loaded as the fight is likely to develop rapidly as the enemy will want to accomplish its mission prior to air sorties massing. Mission tactics has always been a cornerstone of modern warfare and the organization must place weapons in the right hands to capitalize.
The widespread urbanization of the globe means that war will tumble into built up areas, regardless of desires for a clean and sterile battlefield. Scout Platoons will find the need to enter and clear buildings part and parcel to developing the enemy situation. Potential for compromised OPs is a serious threat with the hybrid threat. Urban areas also offer means for hiding even armored vehicles from UAV observation. The fact that combat vehicles were able to continually play a role in Donbas, despite UAV proliferation, shows this clearly. Humans, with eyes, ears, and noses are vital for proper reconnaissance in this environment. Still, the UAV is a valuable tool for the Scout Platoon.
The second consideration is the requirement to counter enemy reconnaissance capabilities before they can reach the protected units. Even shoe-string budget terrorist organizations have UAV capabilities. The Armored Cavalry Troops need to be able to engage and defeat these UAVs long before they can penetrate the security zone. Enemy ground reconnaissance forces will likely be aggressive and hybrid organizations. A handful of scouts from the platoons, with an OP in the wood line, will not be successful. Scouts must be capable of engaging populace and enemy formations alike.
While the requirement for being robust enough to fight is critical, the dismount capability must enable long duration OPs with less tromping to and fro. It should not require the entire platoon to perform a long duration OP.
The proposed Armored Cavalry Squadron of the Future pushes as much capability as possible to the line troops. Overall, the Armored Cavalry Squadron consists of three line Armored Cavalry Troops, a Field Artillery Battery, a Headquarters Troop, and a Forward Support Company.
Each of the three line troops have a pair of tank platoons, a pair of scout platoons, and a fires platoon. We will explore the line troops shortly.
The artillery battery is the standard M109A7 Paladin battery that is common across all heavy formations. It has two firing platoons of three Paladins each. Additional ammunition vehicles are standard with the battery. The Armored Cavalry Squadron requires its own artillery battery due to the requirement to sustain a fight independent of the higher headquarters, while being geographically distant. The Paladins offer the range required to support all three line troops with indirect fires when those are required.
The Headquarters Troop consists of three combat enabler platoons in addition to the Squadron staff. The engineer platoon needs to provide capabilities for minor obstacle reduction as well as some obstacle construction. Being able to push the reconnaissance forward through minor obstacles should be an expected task. At the same time, the capability to create a small obstacle in key terrain, such as a bridge or crossroads, might buy the time needed for the Squadron to accomplish a guard or cover mission.
The air defense artillery platoon is an acknowledgement the Squadron is operating outside of the protective umbrella while accomplishing the role of stripping away enemy air reconnaissance assets. Without organic missile or laser ADA protection, the Squadron assumes unnecessary risk. The organic platoon is necessary to allow the ADA battalions to protect the main body of the division. Additional air defense assets are in the line Armored Cavalry Troops.
The Electronic Warfare platoon is a multi-domain asset to the Armored Cavalry Squadron. It provides tactical signal intelligence, counter signal capability, and tactical communications that enable the Squadron to communicate information in an environment filled with enemy electronic warfare capabilities. Having the signal reconnaissance capability inside the Squadron pushed information to the line troops faster than relying on the relay from the rear.
The Forward Support Company is very similar to current US Army design. As with the Armor Battalion, I moved the medic platoon to the support company to differentiate between combat enablers and combat support. The other difference between the current Forward Support Company and the FSC of the future Squadron is the company requires more protective firepower. Lines of communication will forever be targeted for ambush in hybrid warfare, so every vehicle must be armored and the distribution platoon needs crew served weapon turrets on every truck.
The staff of the Armored Cavalry Squadron must be lean and mobile. The Tactical Operations Center (TOC), Forward Operations Center (TAC), and the Command Trains Command Post must be armored to withstand enemy artillery. They must be agile and operate with a mobile mindset.
Let’s return to the line Armored Cavalry Troops. The troops are powerful, but to fight and win the reconnaissance fight, they must be. The principle of never keeping reconnaissance assets in reserve has a lot of resources pushed forward.
The Armored Cavalry Troop Headquarters Section looks a lot like that of the Armor Battalion of the Future’s company headquarters sections. The pair of mobile contact trucks in the maintenance team is even more vital with the troop’s dispersed operations. The XO’s M2A3 crew also has the UAV instead of the 1SG command post M1283. The reason for this is to allow the the Troop First Sergeant to focus on the battlefield recovery and the executive officer can keep the reconnassance asset in the fight, especially during retrograde operations.
The Armored Cavalry Troop has two tank platoons. The tank platoon is unchanged from the tried and true organization the US Army has used for the last four decades or so. Two platoons of M1A2 Abrams, plus the Troop Commander’s tank, are almost equal to most threat tank companies. This firepower punch creates the capability to quickly and decisively destroy enemy formations as they enter the Troop’s area.
The current US Army Squadron places all of the tanks into a single tank pure company within the squadron. While this masses the firepower, the critical downside is the travel time and exposure required to move the firepower to the schwerpunkt. Against a peer or even near-peer adversary, that travel time and exposure might well be too much to preserve combat power and might force the squadron to yield too much ground to the enemy. The whole point of an Armored Cavalry Squadron is to retain the ability to aggressively fight to guard the higher headquarters.
The Armored Scout Platoons are significantly beefier than previous iterations used by the US Army. Combat has proven the six vehicle Scout Platoon, so we will stick with that. The big change is the number of dismounted scouts. The increase in dismounts requires switching from the M3A3 Cavalry Fighting Vehicle to the M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle (a very simple switch.) The difference between the two is the troop compartment configuration. The M3A3 has more TOW missile racks and seats for two dismounts. The M2A3 has fewer TOW missiles but has seats for seven. Still, the Cavalry Troop does not need to fill all seven seats and uses some of that space for equipment.
Every Bradley in the Scout Platoon carries a dismount team of four scouts. Each team is capable of establishing OPs capable of long duration operations. Additionally, each team has a Javelin ATGM. This also provides thermal viewer capabilities. Each team also has a small UAV. The SUAV increases the size of the observed area and having six across the platoon drastically improves the reconnaissance capabilities.
Every section of the Scout Platoon has an assigned Electronic Warfare specialist, who performs the vital Air Defense role against enemy UAVs, as well as means for addressing enemy robotic vehicles. It is a safe assumption the enemy of the future will use such tools, so providing a counter is critical. With the addition of the EW specialist, the section’s dismount teams field nine scouts on the ground. With three sections, the platoon now has three squad sized elements for urban warfare operations. As such, the platoon leader needs to get on the ground also, so an alternate gunner for the Bradley is required.
All told, the Scout Platoons in the Armored Cavalry Squadron of the Future are easily the most robust and capable ever fielded by the US Army. Not only are they equipped for the full spectrum of warfare, but are significantly more capable for the primary mission to observe and develop information.
The fifth platoon of the Armored Cavalry Troop is the Fires Platoon. Just like the Fires Platoon in the Armor Battalion of the Future, it provides organic indirect and air defense fires in support of the Troop. The dispersed operations of the Squadron make the requirement for organic air defense capabilities within the troop more prominent.
The Armored Cavalry Troop of the Future is robust and capable. It fields 177 Troopers, nine M1A2 Abrams, thirteen M2A3 Bradleys, twelve Javelin ATGMs, fourteen UAV, two M1287 mortar tracks, plus an M7 BFIST and a Bradley Stinger Vehicle. This is more than double the combat and reconnaissance potential in the current cavalry troop.
With three line troops, the Armored Cavalry Squadron of the Future boasts 27 M1A2 Abrams, 39 M2A3 Bradleys, 36 Javelins, 42 small UAV, six M109A7 Paladins, six M1287 mortar tracks, plus air defense and engineer capabilities. The Armored Cavalry Squadron of the Future weighs in at roughly 900 troops and is easily the most capable reconnaissance formation ever fielded.
What about a capasity for NBC recon?
I would also consider keeping the squadron mortar platoon, despit the howitsers.
In the past, we have maintained a chemical platoon at the Brigade/Regiment level – three Fox CBRNE Recce vehicles (Same as the German Fuch). Every platoon has a monitor or two for the purpose of alarm and the battalion trains have a Decon capability. This arrangement carried down from the Cold War days when the assumption of getting slimed in the opening salvo was a given. One of the cool things about the Abrams and Brads is the superb over-pressure system and its comfort level with the troops. If you start out with a full tank of fuel, you can stay buttoned up and safe for around nine hours.
One idea I have pondered is adding a rocket platoon to the howitzer battery. The structure would then be two platoons of 3x Paladins and one platoon of 3x HIMAR. The downside of this would be a massive adjustment for the artillery community as those systems have been separated significantly in the past and this would require the battery to operate more dispersed.
Another thought is adding a Stinger to the squads. The Ukrainians are seeing success using them against smaller drones. An EW system for countering very small drones still has a niche to fill so it is now added equipment, though a smaller system can fit the bill if the Stinger can address the larger and more EW resistant drones.