The US armed forces: condition and trends of development

MOSCOW, 26 Sep 2021, RUSSTRAT Institute.

The military power of a state is determined by the combination of the available composition of forces and means of armed combat, logistics capabilities, as well as the ability of the current design of the armed forces to solve tasks and achieve goals defined in national defence strategies.

Since many significant changes have taken place in the United States in all these parameters of the general formula over the past 20 years, and they have become particularly fundamental over the past five years, the current assessment of American military power needs a full-scale rethink.

Current condition of the US armed forces

According to official information, the total number of all types and branches of the US military exceeds 1.4 million people. From these, as of February 2021, 485,000 people are directly military. The rest are civilian hired personnel.

Organisationally, the US armed forces are divided into the Air Force, Land Force, Marine Corps, and Navy. The National Guard (units that report to state governors) and the Coast Guard serve as reserve support components.

The ground forces number 490,000 people and are represented by the headquarters of seven armies (1st, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th), four corps (I, III, V, XVIII airborne) and nineteen divisions (1 armoured, 1 cavalry, 1 mountain, 14 infantry, 1 airborne, 1 air assault). But such a structure is exclusively of an accounting and managerial nature. Since the tactical basis of the US armed forces is considered to be a brigade that puts one brigade tactical group on the battlefield with independent goals and objectives.

In accordance with the instruction of the ground forces ADRP 3-90 “Offensive and Defence”, issued in 2012, the organisational structure of combat brigades (CB) should include a headquarters, two or more combined-arms battalions, and combat and logistics support units. The number of personnel of the brigade can vary from 2,500 to 5,000 people, depending on its type and the number of attached units.

Based on the 2016 US armed forces reform plan, the number of CBs was reduced to 30 in five fundamentally different types: tank (10 units), mechanised (8 units), light infantry (7 units), airborne (2 units) and amphibious assault (3 units).

The differences between them are in the number of heavy weapons and the level of overall mobility. Only tank brigades have tanks on their staff. Mechanised vehicles rely on armoured vehicles of the “Stryker” family of various modifications.

Light infantry is equipped only with wheeled SUVs and MRAP-type vehicles, and the lack of firepower due to the lack of heavy armoured vehicles is compensated by the inclusion of an additional battery of 105-mm M119 howitzers in the brigade. Amphibious brigade formats are “even easier” and differ in the fact that amphibious units can make a parachute landing, while assault units can only be moved by landing to airfields.

In addition to the linear units, in the US army there is a certain assortment of various “special forces”, reduced to the Special Operations Command, as well as support brigades: artillery, logistics, intelligence, communications, and so on.

Another 30 brigades comprise National Guard units.

The Air Force has 328,600 people in active service and 117,000 people in reserve. Another 106,700 people serve in the Air National Guard. It consists of three air armies and a number of separate commands.

The Marine Corps, until recently, directly competed with the land army in terms of the composition, nature and volume of combat tasks performed. It consists of three separate divisions, as well as aviation, artillery and a number of other support brigades, including logistics brigades. The total number of the Marine Corps is 207,000 people.

The US Navy has 325,000 personnel. It consists of six (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) operational fleets and one (10th) cyber intelligence and security. From the six mentioned, three (2, 4, 6) fleets are virtual and exist only on paper. From these, the 2nd and 4th are fully operational, and the 6th (Mediterranean) has its own permanent headquarters (naval base Rota, Spain), which the American ships and their formations are temporarily subordinated to, while they pass through the waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

Problems of evaluating the capabilities of the US army

When conducting a comparative analysis of the combat capability of the US armed forces, which is an integral part of the general concept of state military power, it is usually customary to compare purely digital indicators in absolute or relative form.

From them, in particular, it follows that the United States outnumbers Russia in terms of personnel (1.4 million vs 1.1 million people accordingly) by 1.27 times, in terms of the size of the combat fleet (USA – 13,513, Russia – 3,082) – by 4.38 times, for helicopters of all types (USA – 6,225, Russia – 1,431) – by 4.35 times, for warships (USA – 473, Russia – 352) – by 1.34 times, including for attack aircraft carriers (USA – 13, Russia – 1) – absolutely.

Although for some types, for example, for submarines (USA – 72, Russia – 63), the difference is not significant, and for such categories as MLRS (USA – 830, Russia – 4026), self-propelled artillery pieces (USA – 1,934, Russia – 5,099), towed artillery pieces (USA – 1,791, Russia – 4,625) and tanks (USA – 8,325, Russia – 15,500), the advantage is on the side of Russia.

However, such a purely accounting approach does not reflect the real state of affairs. Firstly, because these weapons are different, and secondly, because of fundamental differences in the method of their use by the parties based on their concepts of warfare and war in general. As an example, consider tanks and aircraft.

With the declared list strength of 8,325 vehicles, in fact, there are 2,389 tanks in the ground forces units, from which only 1,605 are quite modern (the M1A2 SEPv2 version) and 34 units are considered the latest (M1A2C), and 750 units (M1A1 SA) are now very outdated.

While the Russian tank units (2,800 vehicles) consist of 500 T-72 modifications M and B, 1,000 T-80U/UD/UM and 300 T-90S. From this it can be seen that the category of modern and newest tanks in our country includes more than 2,200. And just a modern T-72B3 combat effectiveness is about a quarter higher than the American M1A2 SEPv2. That is, even in the category of tanks that are directly in service, the Russian armed forces outnumber the American army by about 2.5 times.

A very similar situation is observed in aviation. According to the Military Balance 2020, the United States has 1,522 aircraft in the Air Force, 981 aircraft in the marine aviation, 432 aircraft in the Marine Corps and 576 aircraft in the National Guard. A total of 3,511 vehicles in American combat units versus 1,400 vehicles in the Russian Aerospace Forces and Navy. This balance sheet is in favour of the United States.

But upon closer inspection, it turns out that 187 F-22A “Raptor” is considered unfit and is supposed to be replaced by the latest F-35. Similarly, it is planned to exclude the F-15 from the structure, which the Raptor was supposed to replace, but now the F-35 is supposed to take its place. Actually, on March 3, 2020, Lockheed Martin Corporation released 500 F-35s of all types (for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps), from which 354 were shipped to the Pentagon. Theoretically, they should have reached the level of operational readiness by November 2020, but now the schedule has been shifted to 2023.

Taking into account the B-1, B-2, and F-117 withdrawn from service and the critical drop in the overall level of combat – ready flight equipment to 42%, it turns out that if necessary, the United States can use only about 1,200 vehicles of all types, while the Russian Aerospace Forces (also taking into account the technical readiness coefficient) – about 1,100. In other words, with an almost three-fold “on paper” difference, we have practical parity in terms of the actual state of affairs in aviation.

And given the fundamentally different approach to the nature of the organisation of combined-arms combat, we even have an advantage.

American military power is traditionally based on the unconditional factor of the absolute dominance of “its” aircraft over the battlefield. This makes it possible not only to quickly and timely provide sufficient fire support to the ground forces from the air, but also to deliver at least two destructive missile and bomb-storm strikes against the enemy even before their own ground units come into direct fire contact with them.

According to the Pentagon and the experience of past military operations, in this case, the enemy suffers at least 40% of losses in personnel and equipment even before the start of the battle, thereby being critically weakened and forced to enter it critically, at times inferior in total combat effectiveness.

A series of command and staff exercises of the US and NATO Armed Forces in the period 2014-2017 and an analysis of their results by both Pentagon specialists and experts from third-party analytical centres, such as the RAND Corporation, have shown that the US army has now largely lost this factor of superiority.

Even at the level of brigade tactical groups, the development of military, front-line and zonal air defence no longer allows us to hope for seizing air supremacy in a theatre of operations in the event of a clash with the armies of Russia and even China. And without it, due to the higher saturation of the Russian military units with barrel and rocket artillery and the superiority of their performance characteristics, the standard mechanised brigade of the Russian Federation in terms of fire capabilities is 2.2-2.4 times higher than the similar brigade of the US armed forces. And the “Stryker” light brigade – almost 4.7 times.

When analysing the current military power of the United States, this highlights not quantitative, but qualitative factors: views on the operational art of using forces and means, approaches to organising combined-arms combat, and concepts of war in general.

Qualitative factors of the organisation of the US armed forces

Following the results of World War II and until the end of the 1960s, the military and political leadership of America proceeded from the possibility of maintaining an army (here we mean the entire set of armed forces, including the Marine Corps, aviation, Navy and National Guard) capable of simultaneously and successfully waging at least two large wars with opponents technologically equal to America in different remote theatres of operations (TO), as well as providing “sufficient dominance” in two more low-intensity conflicts (LIC) against local insurgent movements.

After analysing the results of the defeat in Vietnam (1965-1974), the US government recognised the inability of the American economy to provide such a level of combat capability. In view of this, it was lowered to the “1+2” formula, which assumes that the United States military machine is sufficient to simultaneously conduct only one – but offensive – “big war” and two LICs, in no less than one of which the American army must also be capable of active offensive operations.

Currently, according to the military doctrine adopted in 2017, the US army should be able to maintain “on the battlefield” about 600,000 ”bayonets” in all branches and types of the armed forces. This means its ability to fight either one big war, or no more than two small ones, in the LIC format. Moreover, in all cases, the Pentagon requires mandatory and substantial support from its allies.

However, an analysis of the current capabilities of the Pentagon, conducted by leading US think tanks, showed that by the autumn of 2020, America’s actual ability was reduced to 470,000 “bayonets”, from which the actual ground forces can allocate no more than 300,000. This allows them to count on the simultaneous management of only two conflicts of the LIC format of not too high intensity.

This is due to the “1+3” principle underlying the recruitment and provision of the US army. Any unit, unit or warship is in the combat zone for one three-month period and then rests for three cycles, replenishes, re-equips and retrains.

Thus, America can count on success in a war where only a quarter of the number of its combat units will be enough to fight. For a period of up to six months, due to a temporary reduction in the duration of rest, the army mechanism allows tension to reach the level of 35-40%. For a very short time, no more than two months – up to 50%. But then the troops need a longer rest period, reaching up to a year or more.

This leads to three fundamental conclusions. First – in the current conditions, the maximum strain of forces American troops can withstand is no more than two, maximum three, months, during which a fundamental victory must absolutely be achieved. Second – even in this case, the maximum amount of forces and resources will not exceed 150,000-180,000 soldiers and officers in all branches of the armed forces.

Third – if victory is not achieved within the specified time frame, the American military-political leadership inevitably faces a choice: to transfer the conflict to a less intense, but long-term, form of LIC, for which a contingent of 30,000 to 40,000 people will be sufficient to maintain, or to resort to “heavier trump cards” in the form of nuclear weapons. As a minimum – tactical.

The experience of the war in Afghanistan (2001-2021) shows that the LIC format can continue for decades, even if it is steadily losing such a war. The reason for this is the desire of the American army to wage the most remote war with minimal losses in personnel. Over the past 20 years, the Pentagon has passed more than 600,000 military personnel “through Afghanistan” directly. Even up to 200,000-240,000 civilian contractors from private military companies were involved in it.

During the same period, the actual irrecoverable losses of the Pentagon amounted to about 2,500 military personnel and 4 high-ranking civilians of the Ministry of Defence. Even if we take into account the losses among contract soldiers, estimated at 3,700-4,000 people, the total number of those killed in battle and those who died from wounds received directly in a combat situation is 6,500 people, or 0.8% of the total number of personnel involved.

At the same time, it shows the high sensitivity of the American society to the growth of the number of losses, as such. After just three days of the “Battle of Fallujah” (the suppression of the local uprising in Iraq on November 8-10, 2004), the US army suffered about 1,500 soldiers killed and dead from wounds, anti-war demonstrations were held in American cities, and Congressional hearings began on the possibility of ending the war in Iraq.

Although they ended in nothing, nevertheless, the fact itself convincingly shows that the United States is morally incapable of waging a really long and difficult war with an enemy of equal strength. Especially now that the nation is tired of “Afghanistan”.

According to the Pentagon, this is due to three main, closely intertwined problems: personnel, equipment and money. And, oddly enough, the key is the personnel department.

The Pentagon’s personnel problem

As follows from the 500-page analytical report of the American analytical institute Heritage Foundation entitled “Index of US Military Strength: Assessing America’s Ability to Provide for the Common Defence”, in order to restore the ability of the US army to implement the current military doctrine, the armed forces need to increase the number of combat-ready brigade combat groups to at least 80 units. This is despite the fact that at the moment there are only 60 of them in the US armed forces, including the National Guard.

Taking into account the above-mentioned principles and rules underlying military construction, this requires increasing the size of the army to at least 1.8 million-2 million people. Including bringing the size of the fleet to 600 “vympels”. However, the lack of recruitment sources is an insurmountable obstacle to achieving this goal.

Despite the external significance of the US population (329 million people), the mobilisation resource (145 million people) and the accumulated military-trained reserve (2.4 million people) the Pentagon has faced serious problems in manning even the existing units and subunits.

Since 2017, the US military department notes that 71% of male recruits, and 84% of women, are unable to pass the entrance test of military commissions on physical, educational and intellectual level. If the army can somehow stop the problem with unexpunged criminal records, even if not completely, but overweight, physical weakness and a completely low level of education lead to a chronic inability to fill more than 14% of vacancies in the staffing table.

Moreover. If finding suitable material for ordinary positions in the conditional linear infantry as a whole somehow happens, then there is an acute shortage for positions related to the development of complex equipment. And since, for political reasons, especially against the background of the aggressive introduction of “new liberal values” into society, it is not able to refuse recruits en masse, the Pentagon has to reduce first the entrance standards for recruitment, and then the entire set of standards and rules for its subsequent performance.

According to experts, modern American youth aged 17 to 24, which has always been the main source of mobilisation of promising cadres of the rank and file and command staff, is now practically unsuitable for most of the responsible tasks.

The Pentagon’s technical problem

In addition to the increase in injuries among personnel, this is already beginning to lead to a drop in the overall combat effectiveness of military units as a tool of war. The accuracy of fire decreases, the speed of response to changes in the current situation, the quality of development and use of equipment and weapons, and most importantly, the overall quality of command and control decreases.

On the one hand, grassroots units are increasingly showing an inability to understand and correctly execute incoming orders, and on the other hand, the quality and adequacy of the orders themselves of the higher command is actively degrading. In addition, the volume of equipment and equipment breakdowns increases, which significantly reduces the level of its mobility and combat readiness.

The steady and irreversible degradation of the intellectual level of personnel is beginning to put pressure on the Pentagon’s demands for new weapons, communications and other military and logistics equipment in the direction of increasing their primitivisation. If at the end of the 90s the average level of qualification of the field repair battalion was able to completely disassemble and reassemble the entire range of light armoured vehicles on his own, confidently eliminating its breakdowns along the way, at present such a task is above the level of its competence.

Any operational breakdown, especially of a combat nature, which exceeds the level of complexity of replacing a wheel or a complete ready-made module, now requires the delivery of a technical unit to at least the rear repair centre deployed by the manufacturer in the theatre of operations, or even sending it “overseas” directly to the manufacturer.

This increases the cost of logistics for the army as a whole by an order of magnitude, especially for units that are directly in the combat zone. Even without taking into account the growth factor of the combat capability of the current US enemy in a LIC, the rate of equipment failure in the armed forces has increased 4.7-fold in ten years. That is, the maintenance of the army, as an institution, becomes unaffordable for the country’s budget. And in the event of active hostilities of at least some serious scale, the rear already demonstrates a high probability of not being able to cope with the support of combat units.

The Pentagon is trying to stop the problem by modernising weapons systems in the direction of simplifying the methods of using them. But such measures have a rather limited effect.

The Pentagon’s financial problem

It is generally assumed that by reducing all army problems only to a lack of funding, the military is simply trying to achieve a new increase in military spending. There are indeed certain grounds for such a conclusion. However, the analysis of the Heritage Foundation shows the presence of other equally important aspects.

The institute’s analysis of the Quadrennial Defence Reviews (QDR) of 1997, 2010 and 2014 (together with the reports of the Pentagon’s independent national defence commission (NDP), as well as the National Defence Strategy (NDS) that replaced them in 2018) was aimed at determining whether the scale of tasks assigned to the armed forces, the degree of effectiveness of their solution, depends on the funding provided.

It turned out that the degree of unfounded expansion of the Pentagon’s budget requests in the late 1990s was no more than 30% and constantly decreased, reaching the level of 10-12% by the autumn of 2020. The main problem was the increase in the cost of training, manning and logistics support for one average soldier as scientific and technological progress developed and the level of household requirements for ensuring the life of a serviceman increased.

If in the US army of the 1945 model, in terms of one serviceman, up to 800 kg of various supplies were spent per day (replacing weapons due to wear and tear, providing food, water, medicines, ammunition, fuel, spare parts for equipment and weapons, household items, etc.), then in 2003 this parameter reached 2.3 tons, and by now it exceeds 4 tons per person per day.

In addition, the cost of a standard set of ordinary infantrymen (taking into account the size of its share in the total cost of military equipment assigned to the unit) has increased 7-fold in 20 years.

Thus, there was an exponential increase in the cost of maintaining the armed forces, which is not compensated by an increase in actual military expenditures. A total of $907 million, or an average of $3,371 per serviceman, was spent on maintaining the US army of 269,023 personnel (1940). A similar calculation shows that in the 2021 budget, the Pentagon spends $471,308 per average serviceman per year. Moreover, half of this money is spent on the rehabilitation of the military at the end of their service.

In other words, to return to the size of the number of combat units at least the 1991 level of 860,000 people in the current supply and support standards, the Pentagon needs at least another $220 billion a year, in addition to the allocated $740.5 million of the military budget.

In addition, the complexity of modern military equipment results not only in an increase in the cost of maintaining its current models in service (by an average of 14% per year), but also in an astronomical increase in R & D costs. The McDonnell Douglas Corporation’s F-15 Eagle multirole fighter development program cost the US budget $2.5 billion, while the development of the F-35 already cost $398.6 billion.

This is the result of the expansion of attempts to compensate for the decline in the effective size of the armed forces and the increase in their sensitivity to losses (primarily combat) by maintaining, and even increasing, technological superiority in the tactical-technical parameters of weapons, known as the “silver bullet strategy”. Each next iteration of weapons should “shoot further and more accurately”, have greater resistance to damaging factors, be even more mobile and deadly. And also, require fewer people for maintenance. The F-22 and F-35 fighter jets can be considered clear examples of the implementation of the “silver bullet” strategy.

The Lockheed/Boeing F-22 Raptor multi-purpose stealth fighter was developed as a tool for the targeted destruction of particularly valuable air defence facilities. First and foremost, air situation monitoring radars, of which there are usually no more than 2-3 units at the front, and the destruction of which resulted in a multiple, several-fold drop in the resistance of the entire enemy air defence group in the theatre of operations.

This led to the idea that technological superiority should be the main thing, ensuring a guaranteed successful completion of the combat task, and the price factor could be taken into account last. All the same, such fighter jets will require at most a couple of dozen. The result is a plane that costs 20% more than its own weight in 99.99 gold.

Considered as a replacement for it, the newest F-35 was claimed to be a jet that retains combat capabilities close to the F-22, but is an order of magnitude cheaper in everyday operation. Numerous sensors and an advanced on-board computer built into its design were supposed to monitor the actual state of nodes and blocks every second, transmitting them through communication channels to a central database.

This was able to monitor the entire fleet in operation in detail, pre-forming the need for a specific range of spare parts and drawing up a long-term maintenance schedule for literally every individual aircraft long before the probability of failure reaches the threshold value.

Theoretically, this promised to reduce the need for maintenance personnel by 4.4 times, in the volume of inventory of components and blocks – by more than an order of magnitude (according to calculations, the Pentagon could reduce storage volumes by at least $400 billion), and would raise the level of technical readiness of units equipped with F-35s to at least 75-78%. Although the stated goals are far from being fully achieved, the F-35 nevertheless costs the Pentagon 1.5 times more than the F-22, without actually providing any significant advantage in real combat effectiveness.

The blind alley of the “silver bullet” strategy

The tradition of striving to surpass the enemy in the technological level of weapons has now led the American army down a systemic blind alley. The growth of the pace of scientific-technological progress in armaments, on the one hand, sharply accelerated changes in the means and methods of warfare. They often lead to the fact that the latest samples lose their adequacy to the new conditions even before the end of their development. On the other hand, the weapons of the previous generation are rapidly spreading around the world, automatically forcing the US army to confront an increasingly “modern” and strong enemy.

Since the Pentagon can no longer financially compensate for the narrowing of the technological gap by extensive methods of increasing the number of personnel and weapons, the United States armed forces are forced to further strengthen attempts to create more and more new “miracle weapons” with an ever-increasing cost, no longer paying attention to the decline in the efficiency of R & D investments.

Moreover, the American military-political leadership is forced to put up with the fact that new weapons systems, despite the multiple increase in their cost, are less and less effective than their previous generations. And even do not exceed them at all. In particular, to replace the Ohio-type SSBNs ($1.5 billion per unit), the US Navy began construction of the latest Columbia-type SSBNs ($4.8 billion per unit), which in actual performance characteristics exceed the Ohio by less than 15%, and in terms of planned operating costs, they are even inferior by almost a third.

Against the background of ongoing “deep modernisation”, the US armed forces are facing increasing difficulties in maintaining combat capability even at the level established by their own statutes. For example, to maintain the minimum required skill level, fighter pilots must fly an average of at least four practice sorties per week, with a combined duration of 200 flight hours per year. However, in practice, 77% of USAF pilots do not fly even the 180 hours required for a simple confirmation of professional qualifications. And about 40% of pilots don’t even have 140 hours.

This forces the US army to look for more and more alternative options for conducting combat operations, focusing on areas in which the US superiority still remains significant.

Mosaic multi-sphere warfare strategy

Since 2019, the Pentagon has started practical testing of a new strategic concept for conducting combat operations, called “mosaic multi-sphere warfare”. This is now cemented in place as the basis of all promising military construction in the “interim US national security strategy” presented by the White House in the spring of 2021.

In addition to traditional “battles” on land, in the air and at sea, combat operations will have to be conducted in space, cyberspace and the field of social media technologies.

Even before direct combat begins, the public of the enemy country must be convinced of the invincibility of American superiority in military and technological power, with a critical undermining of its will to resist staunchly. Thus, the Pentagon seeks to use the practical experience of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, when Saddam Hussein’s technically not much inferior and almost equal in total strength army was completely demoralised even before the start of the active phase of Operation Shock and Awe.

As a result, it refused to conduct independent offensive actions and went into a blind positional defence, immediately giving the enemy the initiative. This overwhelmingly determined her subsequent general defeat.

In parallel with the demoralisation of the enemy, the target state should be subjected to massive cyber attacks aimed at paralysing the activities of state institutions and other basic services: from communications and electricity, to resource allocation and providing guidance to performers. And most importantly, cyber attacks should cut off the population from information channels that allow them to have an adequate idea of the current state of affairs.

The attacked society must develop a strong belief that everything has completely collapsed, nothing works, now everyone is for themselves, and it is absolutely absurd to continue meaningful resistance. Only consent to immediate, complete, and final surrender should seem like salvation. And if your own government refuses to do this, then it should be removed immediately.

Thus, it is supposed to turn the enemy’s own demoralised and disoriented population into a massive fifth column, independently undermining the power of its own state and its ability to resist the US army.

At the same time, the expansion of the relationship of linear army units with the satellite grouping should ensure their absolute dominance over the enemy in the level, scale and efficiency of current situational awareness. Both in relation to the actions of the enemy, and in terms of knowing the position, condition and current needs of their own units participating in the battle.

This is expected to be achieved by a combination of three factors:

Firstly, the army is testing a new system for collecting and processing current (both intelligence and situational) information. It is a key element of the overall combat operations management system. Within the Air Force, this system is called the Advanced Battle Management System, ABMS. Its comprehensive tests took place in December 2019 and showed that 26 of the 28 declared functions are already quite functional.

The Army, Marine Corps and Navy are testing their own similar elements with approximately the same effectiveness. The completion of the two remaining tasks will make it possible to establish a full-scale operational exchange of information between different branches of the armed forces, which, according to the authors, should significantly increase the combat effectiveness of units, and in total allow them to achieve victory in the war with significantly smaller forces.

Secondly, the structure of the US armed forces in the next three years will undergo a radical reorganisation in the direction of radically increasing the mobility of units and ensuring radically greater autonomy of brigade combat groups.

To do this, the linear infantry is made as light as possible and transferred to the IBCT format (Infantry Brigade Combat Team), which have only Humvees and lightweight, mainly wheeled, armoured vehicles. In fact, it becomes an analog of dragoons, only in cars instead of on horses.

The reduction in IBCT strike power is expected to be compensated by expanding their support from the CAB (Combat Aviation Brigade) and special support units that provide technical support and supply food, fuel and ammunition. The structure of the US armed forces is supposed to have 14 IBCTs and 11 CABs.

IBCTs serve to capture and maintain control over space, as well as to maximise the dispersion of the enemy command’s attention throughout the theatre to the extent that it loses a clear idea of the current configuration of American forces, and therefore will be forced to act impulsively, therefore, irrationally and unprepared. Thus, they are constantly exposed to the blows of specialised “heavy” tools in the form of BCT (Brigade Combat team – tactical groups from mechanised brigades).

Unlike the “light infantry”, they have an artillery division and rear elements that ensure their complete self-sufficiency in conducting active offensive combat operations lasting up to 10-12 days.

An enhanced version of the BCT is the “Stryker” Brigade Combat Team, among other things, equipped with a wide range of various specialised armoured vehicles based on the “Stryker” family, including the M1128 wheeled self-propelled guns. The effectiveness of their strike power is achieved through close cooperation with supporting artillery brigade combat teams, CAB groups and Air Force strike aircraft.

The most powerful striking tool of the new structure of the American army should be tank battalion tactical groups designed for the final breaking of the enemy’s defence and the development of success in the main direction. It is planned to have five such groups.

In this structure, the Marine Corps is assigned the role of light coastal patrols on the coast of continents or on islands, capable of controlling adjacent waters using anti-ship missile systems on light wheeled vehicles, with a range of up to 200 km. This means that the US army does not plan to conduct major amphibious operations in the next 20 years.

The role of the National Guard is also reduced to a tool for preparing and delivering replenishment “to the front” in the form of IBCT only.

Thirdly, the emphasis on satellite communications, a drastic reduction in the time of fire response to emerging threats, especially at the stage before they come into direct fire contact, superiority in situational awareness and intelligence, as well as constant, 24/7 detailed knowledge of the location, condition and specific actions of everyone, up to a single piece of equipment or an individual soldier, should ensure an increase in the mosaic

The Pentagon assumes that the troops will no longer storm stubbornly resisting defence nodes for a long time or stubbornly hold any positions themselves. This excludes the possibility of continuous uninterrupted fronts with full-profile trenches and close interaction of units with each other in the traditional “shoulder contact” principle of the Second World War. On the contrary, the key to small forces winning in a large war is mobility, surprise and an instant concentration of overwhelming firepower at key points.

In the view of the US military command, battalion tactical groups will suddenly appear “almost out of nowhere” (the “fog of war” concept), deliver devastating blows, and then, depending on the result of the clash, either instantly go into a breakthrough developing success, or quickly pull back, breaking contact with the enemy long before they have time to react and bring heavy support or aircraft to the battlefield.

Thus, the continuous fabric of the battle must break up into a huge, complex, extremely fast-changing mosaic of numerous instantaneous point-based skirmishes, without a clear front or flanks, in which the US army expects to surpass the enemy in mobility, initiative of low-ranking subunits, quality and complexity of information awareness, the ability to create absolute superiority in the points it needs, and the overall activity of operations in the theatre of operations as a whole.

The enemy in this concept must quickly lose the adequacy of understanding what is happening, disperse forces, lose interaction between them, expose communications and drown in a huge amount of incoming information about the rapidly changing situation. This will lead to a critical increase in its losses in manpower and equipment, as well as the degradation of the will to win even at the level of the high command and the complete demoralisation of both army units in the war space and especially civil society in the rear.


Although the above may give the impression of a deep crisis in the US armed forces, in reality it is wrong. The American army continues to be one of the strongest on the planet and will be so for at least the next 20 years.

However, at the same time, its combat capabilities are limited to putting “on the battlefield” at the same time no more than 300,000 “bayonets”, from which the ground forces will not exceed 200,000 soldiers and officers. Thus, the United States can only conduct one active war at a time in the format of a low-intensity conflict.

For this reason, in the upcoming medium-term likely armed conflict with China, America intends to reduce to a battle for a limited theatre of operations in the form of only Taiwan and stretching the war space to the south-eastern Pacific Ocean (Singapore – Philippines – Papua New Guinea-Australia – Indonesia), in which the United States will be able to use up to three aircraft carrier strike groups and a quarter of the rest of the fleet, believing this to be sufficient to achieve superiority over the PLA naval forces.

In the European direction, the US army command expects, if necessary, to create a vast “expanse of war” within the former Eastern European countries: Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine. The prospect of its extension to Belarus is not excluded. At the same time, the Baltic states, due to the obvious negativity of the strategic connectivity of the region, will not be defended by American troops. They will leave it for being impossible to hold.

In principle, the same scheme will continue in the case of attracting some part of the European NATO allies to the war on the side of the United States. But this aspect is beyond the scope of this analysis, so it is not considered further.

Institute for International Political and Economic Strategies – RUSSTRAT


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