The American armies test their new "All-Domain" combat doctrine

Traditionally, the perception of a country's military power is based on an appreciation of the format of its forces, the number and quality of its equipment, and the training or even the hardening of its personnel. And it is true that with a few exceptions, the French remember it in Azincourt, this approach made it possible to effectively assess the balance of power, and therefore the power gradient. Thus, during the Cold War, NATO bet on technological power and on a more efficient air force to compensate for the marked excess of the Soviet armored weapon and its satellite countries.

But certain significant historical events have shown that a doctrine in perfect harmony with the technological reality and of the forces trained to respect this doctrine could represent the determining element of a conflict. This was the case in 1940 when Nazi Germany deployed its Blitzkrieg against the much better armed Franco-British coalition, wiping out the resistance of the two largest European military powers in a matter of weeks. And this doctrine allowed the forces engaged in Operation Barbarossa in 1941 against the Soviet Union to gain the advantage over many more numerous forces, and aligning more tanks, often more efficient than the German tanks. And it was only with the adaptation of Soviet doctrine, in particular thanks to the growing political weight of General Zhukov, the future winner of Stalingrad, and the strategic mistakes imposed by Adolf Hitler, that the Soviet Union succeeded in reversing the balance of power. from 1942.

The German tanks were often lighter and less powerful than their Soviet counterparts at the start of the Barbarossa plan, but a better doctrine of use allowed the Wermarcht to line up the worn out for more than 6 months

Until recently, there was little need for the United States to be particularly innovative in the doctrine of the employment of the armed forces. The combination of the economic and technological power of the country, and the indisputable experience of its armed forces, were enough to make it the undisputed leader in world military power, especially since the disappearance of the Soviet Union. But in recent years, Washington has faced an unprecedented situation with the rise of Chinese power, since for the first time, the United States is facing a country that can potentially equal and even exceed its industrial and technological capabilities, at least in the not-so-distant future. It was therefore necessary, at the Pentagon, to imagine a solution to maintain operational ascendancy over such an adversary. The answer is a doctrine, referred to in English as “All-Domain Capacities”, a doctrine which was first tested on a large scale at the end of September 2020, on the occasion of Valiant Shield 2020 exercise.

Concretely, the new American doctrine is based on a global and unified communication and command architecture bringing together all the players in the battlefield, whether or not they are present on the ground, so as to reduce communication delays as much as possible. and decision making and thus act faster and much better than the adversary, taking advantage of all the means available at all times to support the maneuver. This is in itself a real revolution in the conduct of operations across the Atlantic, which until now followed a very strict and relatively hermetic organization chart, with decision-making nodes often penalizing on the ground.

Simplified overview of the US Air Force ABMS system

The new US doctrine will jointly give more decision-making latitude to actors deployed in the field, while allowing the upper echelons to control the commitment and alter it so as to be able to apply a more global strategy. One of the objectives of this approach is to reduce the time it takes to validate orders which have on several occasions severely penalized the operational conduct of operations in the field in recent years. In addition, this doctrine being inter-armed, it will make it possible to harmonize, accelerate and extend the interactions between the units of each of the US Armies and potentially allied armies deployed in the environment of the battlefield.

A spectacular demonstration was made a few weeks ago by the US Air Force and its new Advanced Battle Management System or ABMS, carried by the thunderous Will Roper, in shooting down a supersonic aerial target mimicking a cruise missile using an M109A6 Paladin SPG interconnected to the system, and equipped with a new hypersonic guided shell. In this demonstration, ABMS made it possible to detect, identify, engage and destroy the target in just a few seconds, while each of the actions was carried out by a different actor. According to Will Roper, by applying the standard procedures in progress in the US armies, it would have taken several minutes to obtain the firing order, a delay incompatible with a supersonic target.

The U.S. Air Force demonstrated the effectiveness of its ABMS by shooting down a supersonic drone using an M109 Paladin SPG

The implementation of the new All-Domain Capacities doctrine is not without many difficulties, both technological and operational. First, it will be necessary to heavily densify, standardize and secure all the interconnected systems of the armies, which naturally represents a colossal effort on the scale of an armed force as large as that of the United States. In addition, it will be necessary to modify an innumerable number of systems, in order to give them the capacity to intervene within the new system in a secure and efficient manner. This is one of the reasons why the United States is committed to the deployment of a satellite galaxy of unparalleled magnitude until then, satellite communication remains the most reliable and discreet today.

But the technological aspect is far from being the only obstacle to the implementation of such a doctrine, the operational aspect is just as much. Indeed, it will be a question here of reorganizing the intervention of the actors and the provision of "services" at the various levels of the engagement, in what one could qualify as logical battlefield, without saturating the system. nor saturate the decision-making capacities of the command. Indeed, the excess of requests and information leads to the appearance of a phenomenon called infobesity, which slows down or even alters the decision, which would cancel out all the benefits expected by the new doctrine. To avoid this, it is necessary not only to train the operators, but also to have systems making it possible to analyze, organize and valorize the multiple types of information to effectively give decision makers assimilable and relevant information at the right time.

DARPA's Blackjack program plans to deploy a galaxy of US military satellites around the planet

It goes without saying that this new doctrine is based, in large part, on new information technologies, and in particular on the increased use of Artificial Intelligence, which is not devoid of vulnerabilities. In addition, before being fully operational, it will be necessary to carry out a large number of exercises, so as to assess all the potentials, but also the weaknesses, which will still require several years, and perhaps decades, before to be fully operational. However, we note that the American Armies are determined not to waste time in procrastination and superfluous speculation, to have as soon as possible, if not all the expected features, at least the first bricks likely to provide rapid first operational advantages. Here too, this is a break with the observed management of major US defense programs in recent decades, characterized by excessive ambitions, reckless spending, and negligible operational results.

Other countries, particularly in Europe, are also working to integrate extended multi-domain engagement capabilities into their armed forces.

The fact remains that the new American doctrine has already generated initiatives across the world, while some countries had already made progress in a similar approach for several years. In fact, it may seem hazardous to think that the mere existence of this doctrine will suffice to overcome a traditional balance of power that is too unfavorable. And if many appreciate and abuse convenient "force multipliers" to present a degraded situation more favorably, it should be borne in mind that often the main criterion in a balance of power is force. In this area, we should not forget the experience acquired during, for example, the Korean War, when the Chinese forces, more rustic, less trained, and less efficient than the American forces, pushed back the latter until 38th parallel simply because of their overwhelming numerical superiority.

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