FORT SILL, Okla. — Maj. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general, addressed more than 180 defense contractors on the challenges the fires force face in preparing for future Multi-Domain Battle. Shoffner spoke at an Industrial Breakfast at Cameron University Jan. 31.
According to Shoffner, there are two key issues to preparing the Army for a near-peer battle. The first issue is identifying and acquiring the right weapons to put in the hands of the fires force and its allies in a timely manner. The second is mitigating identified fires gaps to conduct large-scale combat operations against a near-peer competitor. FCoE leaders are looking to the industry as a think tank to assist in addressing these capabilities gaps.
“It is so important for us to work with you, for us to learn lessons and have a dialogue about how we need to operate and survive in the current operational conditions,” Shoffner said to industry vendors. “We talk about outreach a lot and working with industry, but the reality is that over the last 15 or 16 years the Army’s focus has been on the current fight and resources follow the current fight.”
In an effort to modernize, the Army must adapt to the battlefield of the future. Shoffner said greater lethality is about capabilities, not platforms.
“The Army must innovate and adapt concepts, equipment and training to be ready for the next war. We face multiple challenges in defining force structure, doctrine and implementing training. Army leadership is establishing strategic partnerships with industry to cultivate innovative technologies to accelerate delivery of 10 times capabilities to the force,” Shoffner said.
The Army has six modernization priorities with the first being long-range precision missiles and the fifth is air and missile defense. Army senior leadership initiated two directives to prioritize resources and efforts to accomplish these priorities: cross-functional teams (CFTs) and refocused talent management.
In October 2017, the Army released a directive outlining the pilot program of the cross-functional team. It included who would comprise the team (members with expertise in science and technology, logistics, contracting, and more) and what the team would set out to accomplish, ultimately “to develop capabilities faster and in a less costly manner to enable our Soldiers to fight and win.”
“The challenges we face because we have so much capability and so much force structure, it’s going to take a long time to crawl out of that hole and it’s hard to do when the resources are uncertain,” said Shoffner.
Shoffner posed the question “What kind of organizations are needed for the force of the future?” He discussed three of the organizations developed by the FCoE: Division Fires Command to support division operations; the Operational Fires Command to support corps operations; and the Theater Fires Command to support a theater Army/Joint Force land component command.
“The idea is to converge the field artillery and air defense capabilities with cyber-electromagnetic activities, information operations and space-based capabilities into integrating headquarters with the authorization to coordinate and employ cross-domain fires at every echelon,” he said.
One of the initiatives for the Army is the Multi-Domain Task Force. The primary mission of the MDTF is to protect the joint force by applying long-range artillery and air and missile defense capabilities. It is also designed to provide long-range precision fires to target critical enemy assets such as integrated air defense systems, cruise and ballistic missiles, aerial attack capabilities and surveillance capabilities.
“The biggest lesson learned in order to decisively affect the fight was that we needed long-range fires to break through the [anti-access area denial] bubble to allow their attacking agent to get in there,” said Shoffner.
Long-range fires and field artillery
Long-range precision fires is the number one priority on the Army’s list. Fires provides the ability to destroy, neutralize or suppress artillery targets at extended ranges, thereby shaping the close fight to a time and place of our choosing.
Brig. Gen. Stephen Maranian, Field Artillery School commandant, said the FA is working hard to educate the force.
“Our main focus is to enhance readiness in the operational force,” said Maranian.
Maranian described a ready fires force as manned, trained, equipped and well-led to conduct joint missions and employ cross-domain fires that enable unified land operations.
He said training will ensure dominance in range, munitions and target acquisition to ensure fires has superior lethality and range against near-peer threats.
Air missile defense
Air and missile defense is one of the Army’s top modernization priorities and it’s critical to winning a fight against a “great power,” or near peer adversary. In order to achieve overmatch, the AMD force must retain the ability to defeat the full range of missile threats.
“The Army will achieve its objectives through its air and missile defense modernization strategy — to rapidly integrate and synchronize the requirements development process, acquisitions process and resources to deliver AMD capabilities to the warfighter faster,” said Shoffner.
Shoffner said the idea is to have multiple ways to deal with threats like unmanned aerial systems (UASs) including how to determine if it’s a friendly UAS and how to deal with enemy UASs.
“It’s a question of what sensors do we have and what ability do they have to feed the information into our systems? We’re at a point now where our missiles outperform our sensors,” said Shoffner.
“There’s no one silver bullet, there’s no one single system that’s going to get this done. There are some healthy discussions going on and you guys can help us see what the options are and see what can help us with the counter UASs,” he said.
“One of the things we can all agree upon is that it doesn’t make any sense to fire a missile that costs $114,000 at a UAS that costs a thousand dollars. There are other ways to get at the UAS whether it’s guns, or directed energy or a combination of those things. My point is to do what is sensible,” he said.
Brig. Gen. Randall McIntire, Air Defense Artillery School commandant, emphasized the importance of air defense artillery to protect the maneuver force and for preservation of key combat power.
“The main priority for us is maneuver short-range air defense (M-SHORAD). The maneuver force lacks the ability to detect, identify and engage threat UAS, cruise missiles, rotary wing and fixed wing aircraft,” said McIntire. “M-SHORAD will be employed as part of a tiered and layered approach to establish cross-domain dominance of tactical airspace.”
M-SHORAD employs a mix of sensors and shooters. The directed requirement for an initial M-SHORAD capability is to address the urgency of need to provide air and missile defense protection of maneuvering forces. In the future, M-SHORAD will contribute to the maneuver force’s employment of lethal and/or nonlethal capabilities to detect, track, identify and defeat the threat.