Combined arms operation now includes 'multi-domain' battles

Breaking Defense:
The brutal ground war in Iraq holds vital lessons for sophisticated future operations in the Pacific, Australian Maj. Gen. Roger Noble said today. Military pundits often draw a sharp distinction between what they consider low-tech warfare against irregular forces, as in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, and high-tech war against states like China and Russia. But when Noble went from a tour in Iraq last year to the Hawaii headquarters of US Army Pacific, he said, the cutting-edge concepts of Multi-Domain Battle that USARPAC is experimenting with forcefully reminded him of coalition operations against Daesh, the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

Multi-Domain Battle calls on the services to break out of their traditional comfort zones and extend their reach into each other’s domains so they can support each other and attack the enemy from multiple angles at once. That requires the military to develop not only new weapons — from cyber tools like Stuxnet to shore-based anti-ship missiles — but new systems of command, control, and communication to bring the disparate efforts together.

That’s already happening in Iraq, Noble argued. As Iraqi ground forces grind down the Islamic State, they receive not only explosively visible assistance from US airstrikes and artillery, but also invisible support from many nations. While the Australian general was naturally cagey about details, between his remarks and our informed speculation, we can say that support probably included satellite and signals intelligence, electronic jamming,computer hacking and targeted propaganda.

“Capabilities are now globally sourced, so global capabilities were employed tactically inside Iraq… from all of the domains,” Noble said. “A battalion of the Iraqi army may be supported by coalition national strategic assets — and that battalion may be completely oblivious to that.”
There is more.

What appears to be unique is providing all of this data to small unit operations.  One of the innovations of the 1980s that led to victories in Iraq in the gulf wars was a return to the concept of combined arms operations and "jointness."  Jointness was the requirement that the branches of the military work more closely together.

Combined arms operations present the enemy with a dilemma as to how to respond because the weakness of one arm can be strengthened with others working together.  The most successful military operations in ancient history until the present day have been combined arms operations.  Using just one arm such as infantry alone or air power alone leads to stalemates, but together with heavy cavalry such as modern tanks it si difficult to stop.


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