WASHINGTON — A year after rolling out the multi-domain battle concept, the Army is now onto the next phase of unifying efforts with other services to turn ideas into synchronized operations.
While services have continuously worked in joint environments, the complex battlefield of the future could force troops to be even more adaptive using a mix of air, land, maritime, cyber and space capabilities to defeat an enemy.
Gen. David Perkins, commander of the Army Training and Doctrine Command, recalled that as a young officer, he only concentrated on land operations and left the rest of the battlespace to his counterparts.
That type of thinking must change, he said.
“We have to get away from this idea of domain ownership and focus on domain usership,” he said, speaking Wednesday at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exhibition.
After he announced the concept at last year’s meeting, Perkins has since heard feedback saying it’s “old wine in a new bottle” or air/land battle 2.0, referring to the Army strategy established in the 1980s.
While much of the new concept is built upon former doctrine, there are distinct differences. Perkins explained that joint operations in the past were not synchronized at the start, which led to stovepipe systems and redundancies.
“That was one of the challenges we had,” he said. “When it got broken down into its bits and pieces, you had all of these stovepipe solutions that now had to be resynchronized.”
Perkins hopes to eliminate that issue on this new concept by gaining input from across the military.
Since the announcement, Army and Marine Corps leaders have joined forces and earlier this year published a white paper providing an overview of what ground troops may face in 2025-2040.
As part of an expeditionary force that operates on land, air and sea, Marines naturally integrate with the other services, said Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command.
“Multi-domain battle has a ways to go,” he said. “But it’s a start point to get us after wargaming, experiments, and research and development. Then we can drive forward and get into doctrine and joint concepts.”
Perkins has teamed up with Air Force Gen. James H. Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, to develop a battlefield framework that aligns capabilities from both services.
In order to converge solutions to shared problems, Holmes said, it will ultimately come down to Army-Air Force partnerships forged over recent years in combat zones.
“We’ve built teamwork between our junior leaders and we need to build on that and build on the trust that it will take for us to operate,” Holmes said.
Last week, Holmes saw one possible solution when he observed an exercise at Fort Drum, New York. There, 10th Mountain Division Soldiers worked alongside Airmen to coordinate fires and deconflict airspace during Joint Air-Ground Integration Center training.
In the future, Holmes said he would like to see a division of Soldiers train with Airmen in Blue Flag, one of the Air Force’s major warfighter exercises.
“The experiments and exercises that we’ll do with TRADOC and at other places will help us determine the way forward,” Holmes said.
U.S. Army Pacific has also linked up with the U.S. Pacific Command to create a multi-domain task force to test and execute new ideas, including ones that involve maritime assets.
Envisioned to be a brigade-sized unit, the task force is slated to have its headquarters and an ICEWS element — intelligence, cyber, electronic warfare and space — in place by the end of next year. It could then start exercises a year after that, Perkins said.
Initially, the task force may focus on anti-access/area denial capabilities, which could mean task-organizing units that have air and missile defense, fires and aviation assets.
“I think you’re going to find this to be an agile force structure that we can modify depending on the mission,” Perkins said.
Emergence of cyber warfare is also something military leaders in the past never had to deal with on the battlefield. In future warfighting, it will be required, said Maj. Gen. Stephen G. Fogarty, the U.S. Cyber Command’s chief of staff.
The Defense Department’s information networks enable such things such as mission command, precision fires, logistics, and provide commanders with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data.
“Commanders have to understand it; they have to own it and master that weapon system like any other kinetic weapon system,” he said.
For commanders to be more agile against near-peer threats, he said, the military needs to accelerate work on converging information gathered by the networks, which can be controlled by domain-specific entities.
“In the cyber domain and in all other domains, speed is becoming more important,” Fogarty said. “This isn’t the future, this is now.”