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Fort Irwin Exercise: Army 'Transformation Springboard'

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 23, 2001 – The Army will demonstrate how new technology can put more predictability into the uncertain -- and deadly -- business of war during a two- week exercise starting April 1 at Fort Irwin, Calif.

At the Division Capstone Exercise the home team Blue force will show how computerized, Internet-connected radios, satellite-fed global positioning systems and novel reconnaissance methods can be used to steal a march on the old-tech opposing Red force, exercise director Maj. Gen. B.B. Bell said at a March 14 Pentagon briefing.

Two 4th Infantry Division brigades, one mechanized, one aviation, will comprise the Blue team and be using modified Abrams tanks, updated Bradley fighting vehicles and Longbow Apache helicopters, he said. More than 7,000 soldiers overall will take part in the National Training Center exercise.

"We're going to take our legacy force (and) ensure it is empowered with information dominance technology," Bell said. "DCX is a springboard for Army transformation."

That transformation is geared to produce the Army of 15-20 years hence, he said. Information dominance on the battlefield, he added, helps dissipate the fog of war by answering the age-old military questions: Where am I? Where are my buddies? Where is the enemy?

For centuries, Bell said, massed opposing armies, whether on foot or mechanized infantry or armor units often lurched about, uncertain of each other's location, true strength, and intentions. After first contact -- either by design or by random chance, as at Gettysburg, Pa. -- battles often evolved into costly slugging matches of attrition warfare, he added.

After mauling each other July 1-3, 1863, at Gettysburg, for instance, Northern and Southern armies suffered a combined total of more than 50,000 killed, wounded and missing, roughly balanced between the two sides.

Bell said the Fort Irwin exercise culminates Army efforts to develop battlefield information dominance capabilities proposed in 1995 by Gen. Gordon Sullivan, then Army chief of staff. The exercise will demonstrate how new technologies will enable the Army to adopt new strategies to quickly find and fix enemy forces, control the flow of battle, and defeat the enemy in piecemeal, thus avoiding massed confrontations with attendant high losses of troops and material, he added.

"We're on the cusp of changing doctrine," Bell remarked, adding that exercise participants will conduct operations around the clock and incorporate "a tremendous integration" of air-ground forces.

"Longbow Apache helicopters will not only do the 'deep' operations to shape the battlefield," Bell said, "they will also be in general and direct and mutual support of the ground force, frequently.

"We'll see a better air-ground teaming than we've seen in the past," he added.

Today's heavy, armored, Cold War-era "legacy" Army is designed to fight toe-to-toe with a similarly equipped enemy, Bell said. Tomorrow's forces, he noted, will incorporate upgraded command, control, communications, and intelligence-gathering systems, and they will be lighter, easier to deploy, more maneuverable -- and more lethal. Future commanders, he said, will be forward deployed and their fast-moving troops will be proficient at putting the pressure on the enemy night and day.

The commander of the Armor Center at Fort Knox, Ky., Bell is a self-described "heavy-force guy" who noted that the Army's search for a lighter, more maneuverable and deployable armored vehicle is part of plans for tomorrow's force.

"You can't get it done with a 70-ton M-1 tank," he remarked.

Regardless of the configuration of the next-generation- armored vehicle, transformation will depend on the forcewide application of digitalization throughout the battlefield, enabling the Army to "come to grips with the power of information dominance," he concluded.

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