This post arose from a Doctrine Man comment, referring to the Australian Army’s The Cove, an online public discussion forum for military matters.
The subject at had was a case for the SPIKE Non-Line Of Sight (NLOS) missile system as a key enabler for distributed forces. I’ve uploaded the actual paper as a PDF here as well to maintain context after losing a load of linked material after the US Army binned its Colloquium files and the discussion fora that lived under the COIN Center.
A point on formatting…the staff paper double-spaced format makes for easy marking but less for easy reading. Different audience, different format, especially if you’re trying to sell something. Rather than posting a document as a native Word doc, a PDF is more compatible with a range of devices.
Anyway, academic nitpicking aside…
This paper leaps directly to a solution without really defining the capability requirement or discussing alternative solutions. Distributed combat capability needs remote targeting and engagement, probably with a higher degree of autonomy and data fusion than that defined in this paper. Any system like but not necessarily Spike cannot be discussed in isolation from other offensive and defensive systems, if for no other reason that to define Spike’s place in the bigger scheme of things.
Some things we carefully tap-dance around when discussing high-tech solutions to tactical and operational challenges are the cost of the system, in practical terms, how many are actually sitting on the shelf, how long can we sustain their use, and what happens when they run out, many of these system not have massive rates of production. Also needing to be discussed is countering counter-measures, especially with any system that relies on remote input, and even more so in a peer v peer conflict i.e. when the ‘other guy’ might be as good as or possibly, Lord forbid, better than us. That is a situation that we down under have not seriously faced on a large scale since the Second World War.
Spike is without doubt a good weapon system. Is it the only answer? Unlikely. If we’re going to adapt back in to the harsh world of peer v peer conflict, we need to first (re)define that environment. If there is nothing that we have not learned the hard way since 911, it should be not to underestimate our opponents or those arguments inconvenient to our own.
Just as our transition from ‘thing’-based conflict to people-focused conflict was less than smooth, we need to work to ensure that the reverse path is clear (as much as possible) of myths, assumptions, or biased thought. We have not faced a truly equal opponent in peer v peer conflict since the Second World War, a conflict that began with a harsh three year learning curve.
The Cove resource that the Australian Army established on the public internet is an innovative adaptive tool to promote these discussions with a broader audience. It is open to anyone to not only constructively comment but to also contribute papers on contemporary topics.
Like many others on this side of the ditch, I’ve also migrated ti The Cove with the demise of the NZDF’s equivalent, The Hub. The Hub ran as a twelve month experiment to engage current and former servicepeople – at the end of that period, someone decided to can it. True, the interface was a little clunky and it still existed behind a secure firewall – seriously, what do you have hide? – but it was a significant step in the right direction. Sad to see it go but happy to virtually commute across the Tasman to carry on the discussion…