APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 4 May, 2001


Shock and Speed:

Colonial Expeditionary Force's Way of Warfare

Janne Kemppi

CEF is army of conquest built by Earth for war in the colonies. It has almost no real history and even less tradition to cling onto. Instead CEF has been purse built military from the bottom aimed to fight and to win when fighting far away from home without any help. Thus whole CEF force design starts from fact that they have squeeze as much combat power as possible from limited pool of resources. Military force is molded by a combination of historical background, available technology and cultural influences from surrounding society.

For CEF all elements came from experiences of Third World War. When Human Concordat had folded, Sol system had collapsed into hundreds of small political players large and small. New Eurasian Commonwealth had been one of these. When war started, NEC was initially forced on defensive. NEC changed from a loose coalition of trading city-states into a tightly knit group of countries with common political leadership and a common military, NECAF. NECAF grew constantly during the war from defensive force into fully capable large conventional fighting force quite capable of taking all NECs enemies. Furthermore, NEC's weapon technology had gone forwards as well with new weapons like hovertanks and new soldiers like GRELs introduced in huge numbers in NECAF. They fought all over the Sol system gathering vast amount of experience in dealing with enemies large and small.

Weapons of mass destruction had been used continuously although at relatively low scale throughout Third World War. Fragmented Human Concordats remaining weapons were initially used but production of more of these weapons, as well as supporting systems, was slow. Thus number of weapons reaching battlefield remained at steady -if low- level throughout the war. While ABC weaponry's physical, chemical and biological basics were widely understood, keeping functional infrastructure necessary to support militarily meaningful arsenal proved initially to be quite difficult. Things changed as war progressed because more resources were poured on weapons of mass destruction. However, when arsenals of nations involved grew, the use of these weapons remained at low key due fear of massive retaliation. Thus NEC saw weapons of mass destruction as something of two-edged sword.

Nuclear weapons were not just very effective but too effective. They destroyed the very medium they were used on destroying the whole purpose of conquest in the first place. Furthermore, there was always a shadow of enemy counterstrike lurking behind corner. However, there was always a room for limited strike to achieve specific objectives, such as denying enemy to use certain strategic choke point.

Biological weapons had similar problems too. First, they were quite unpredictable in their effects. Second, disease-ridden areas remained potentially dangerous for decades forcing victor to field extensive health care programs with vaccinations and decontamination procedures. These programs had to continue even after the war with same intensity as before no matter if threat was towards humans or animals. Biological weapons proved to be most effective in sabotage, where their use and effects were local in nature. Thus biological weapons were still studied and manufactured and prepared against.

Chemical weapons promised to have most use in battlefield. Their use was local and focused and they were safest to handle for soldiers themselves. Even then, there were drawbacks. Chemical agents dissipated as time went on but left residual traces that were still toxic pollutants that made populating area afterwards quite dangerous. Second, chemical weapons were most effective against unprepared enemy without proper protective equipment. This was obviously not the case when they were used against toughest enemies to face who had good equipment and plenty of training to match. Last but not least, the chemical protective equipment was bulky and slowed down everything in battlefield to snail pace. Thus chemical weaponry was often delegated to role of poisoning areas to slow down enemy advance or to flush out unprepared enemies such as guerillas.

Thus CEF has played down use of weapons of mass destruction, especially against enemy with matching capabilities. They do, however, constantly take use of such weapons into account in their planning, training and doctrine. NEC has a policy that they prefer to deter their potential enemies from using these weapons by having ample stocks on their own. They have also prepared extensively to protect their troops in case these weapons are used against them. Furthermore, troops train continuously their use (both separately and together) should deterrence fail or CEF (and their political leadership in NEC) perceive their use to offer an advantage over the enemy. CEF has thus turned their emphasis on warfare into more conventional form of warfare where elements have traditionally been fire and movement.

Firepower of modern armies is tremendous. Every new generation of weapons have improved range, accuracy and lethality over older generation. Popular attention has been grasped by introduction of hovertanks as a new weapon system. A lot of attention has been given to tank versus tank battle while anti-tank weapon systems in general have steadily improved their long range hit probabilities. For example, now foot infantry can kill hovertanks at ranges of several kilometers forcing hovertanks and their organization and fighting methods to evolve as well.

Biggest factor to modern firepower has been long range and high accuracy of artillery and other supporting arms. Modern fire support with extended range munitions can engage enemies from ranges varying from several tens of kilometers with artillery up to few hundred kilometers of range with multiple rocket launchers. Historically artillery has been biggest cause of combat casualties in battlefield and thus CEF believes that in high intensity war fire support assets will inflict an overwhelming portion of casualties as well. CEF sees air power as integral part of fire support. They like its ability to deliver large amounts of firepower in a single sortie. They think it is especially important against armored targets so common in modern battlefield and thus CEF planners believe that air power causes half of casualties by fire support with artillery causing other half.

Furthermore, there is a dazzling array of specialized munitions varying from jamming, to mines to guided systems allowing commander to channel (with mines), isolate (with jammers) and destroy (with guided anti-tank munitions) enemy units. CEF has bought huge piles of these highly expensive munitions for two reasons. First, CEF has always fewer weapon systems than their enemies. Thus they prefer every method available that allows them to cut down number of weapon systems that must be allocated to destroy particular target thus easing strain on few resources available. Second reason is pure logistics. CEF has to transport all their munitions into new planets and if few expensive specialized munitions can do the same job as piles of extremely cheap high explosive ones that is what CEF will choose. End result is that CEF can do more missions (because fewer planes are needed per target) with smaller amount of munitions (because bombs are more accurate) than forces with cheaper bombs in storage. Thus CEF accepts the staggering cost of munitions as acceptable price to pay.

All and all CEF planners saw accurate conventional firepower reaching level of destruction previously achieved only by nuclear weapons. CEF conclusion is that they would need enormous amount of firepower as well to match and preferably overcome what their enemies have. They see fire strikes as primary means of destroying enemy with direct fire battle as continuing from thereon. CEF battle technique is thus to dislodge enemies with a sudden fire storm causing shock, followed immediately by movement of CEF units fight into depth of enemy with greatest possible speed. The logic of this became known as "Shock and Speed" and they would become basic logic of CEF operations.

At the same time there is a problem of enemy being as well armed and equipped as CEF. In order to avoid enemy firepower, Infantry has resorted to their old techniques of dispersing even wider, relying on stealth to avoid enemy from seeing and thus shooting at them. Cavalry has been using dispersion and relaying on their speed during marches to slip quickly and hopefully unnoticeably from one safe place to another at minimum. If there is time, everybody will dig in deep and mock-ups, diversion and ruses are used to fool enemy to hit away from CEF troopers. Alternative positions and maneuvering within defensive zone are encouraged to make pinning down units more difficult.

Movement is second factor of modern battlefield. Firepower is a constant threat and dispersal is often the only method available. Thus militaries have been progressively equipping themselves with vehicles with good cross-country mobility. Enemy firepower is partially countered with growing amount of armor in vehicles as well as broad increase in share of armored vehicles (which can withstand at least artillery fragments). Second important factor has been the precision of movement. Wide use of different navigation aids has allowed militaries to plan their marches and control them more effectively. To put it bluntly soldiers get lost a lot less often than before and appear where they should (and usually in time too). While mobility allows targets to disperse wider and move to new positions quicker but they have their share in improving firepower available as well. Good mobility and long range of fire support allow militaries to keep their fire support units widely dispersed (vital to survival) and move these assets quickly to most threatened sector. This allows even larger concentrations of fire on selected targets.

Ground movement does not always cater to all circumstances. Rapid sea transport is primary military choice for moving heavy equipment during strategic movement. Sea transport is cheap and with cargo submarines relatively secretive as well. However, fast pace of modern warfare has forced militaries to more emphasis on air transport. Air movement is expensive and weight of equipment is less than with ships that can be moved with a single sortie. However, they allow accurate delivery to far larger number of places than ships and moving critical pieces of equipment much faster. For NECAF air transport was vital when reinforcing troops across Eurasian continent. Airborne assaults -dropping large unit to enemy rear- were extensively used when air superiority could be guaranteed.

However, the real change in mobility in World War Three came from introduction of hover vehicles as a alternative movement system to ground vehicles. CEF approached mobility question with viewpoint that they needed as much mobility as possible in armored platform. Ground vehicles had good armor and heavy weaponry. On the other hand, they were slow and their mobility was severely restricted by terrain. Helicopters and VTOL craft had excellent mobility and they could carry considerable amount of firepower in armored package. Hover vehicles seemed to offer both worlds, with ability to move like VTOL craft and ability to move within safety of ground clutter along with ground troops like normal tank and having considerable amount of armor. However, there were severe downsides as well. Hover vehicles were exceedingly expensive, had poor range due outrageous fuel consumption and were mechanically highly complex weapon systems.

All these problems faded when compared to possibilities that military hover vehicles offered. They could be used to move units rapidly over difficult terrain and to give unit ability to by-pass obstacles and enemy units. This gave CEF Cavalry a chance to surprise defending enemy by attacking from unexpected direction. This gives hover vehicle equipped force advantage because most defensive positions are chosen to meet enemy coming from particular direction or moving along certain axis. Thus CEF force can approach from direction, where defenses are weaker or through terrain that gives more opportunities to avoid enemy fire.

When CEF unit can bypass defenses and slip deeper into enemy rear, there are possibilities for raiding against high value targets. CEF planners see this having profound effect on their way of warfare. CEF planners assume that every enemy military unit can and does fight ferociously when they meet CEF troops. However, if enemy unit does not receive orders, they do not move and nor are their actions synchronized with efforts of other units. Second, heavy firepower of any enemy unit lies in their artillery and other supporting arms. CEF would have certainly easier task of defeating them if their fire support did not exist. Enemies cannot really fight, at least for extended period of time, if they have no fuel or ammunition. Thus CEF planners see use of raiding units capable of entering deep into enemy territory and capable of hitting valuable targets such as headquarters and logistical centers as vital addition of their attack as soon as enemy defenses on front have been breached.

Basic elements of battlefield have always been fire and movement. Firepower is the ability to destroy enemy with weaponry while movement is the ability to maneuver in battlefield to wanted position. Mastery of both is necessary for successful combat. However, modern battlefield has so many units in so large area that whole affair of running the battle effectively becomes as important as pulling trigger in foxhole. Whole affair falls under generally used term of C4I or command, control, computers and communications and intelligence. C4I really means delivering all the relevant data to whoever needs it in real-time under integrated battle command system.

For example, firepower is not just dropping bombs. Noise does not kill and accurate delivery of fire on enemy is essential. Thus CEF has put a lot of effort on combining all their sensors to battle command systems allowing them to select relevant targets for firing and then deliver target data for their fire support units so their guns can engage those designated targets immediately. Similarly effective data sharing and information gathering allows CEF logistics units to predict ammunition and spare parts consumption within units and order more if necessary so that there will be no gaps in deliveries. When this is combined with information of operations planning logistics can start to gather stores of campaign as it is being planned.

However, there are snakes in paradise as well. First, there is such a thing as information overload. The catch is getting relevant information necessary to get the job done and pick it up vast flow of data. It is entirely possible to waste valuable manpower in following, archiving and acting on irrelevant material. This is extremely dangerous for military as a whole because valuable time is lost and time is a highly prized commodity in war. Furthermore, acting upon false information constantly can lead into doing things to satisfy system analysts rather than fulfilling orders. For example, if body count is everything in a pacification campaign, there will be tremendous temptation to inflate them to make a unit look good. At times soldiers simply mark all civilians killed during operations as dead enemies to make said numbers look good or they invent numbers to satisfy demands for numbers by chain of command. At worst, it leads to situation where army takes it cues from irrelevant information that is doctored by troops as well.

Second real problem is the false sense of security that command systems often give. Data on screen is only a representation of the situation based on what sensors can catch. It is not the whole picture and certainly not the truth. Leaders have unfortunate tendency to accept data representations at face value. Some believe that a combination of sensor technology worth of trillions can really get them that clear picture of what war is about. However, enemy is not going to sit there idle either. They are doing their best to fool sensors with mock-ups, ruses and elaborate diversionary operations. Danger is not so much that picture collected is not complete, it is that operators watching the processed data believe it is complete. Furthermore, there are things that complicated sensors and databanks just cannot gather or process, like what people on ground are thinking or talking about. There simply are times when a word from cheap prostitute bought with loose change tells the truth a spy satellite network costing billions just cannot see, much less comprehend.

Despite all these threats CEF uses command systems extensively. CEF acknowledges that sensors do not give complete picture and accept it as part of war. CEF planners do see command systems as a vital tool that allows them to react rapidly to emerging threats. Indeed, CEF does not see databanks and processed information as a goal. Instead they see command systems as a tool that allows CEF to cut down expenditure of time needed for planning.

Neither do CEF planners see command systems as a replacement to leadership. Instead they suppose and indeed require commanders to lead from a front, where they can personally face the battlefield. They believe that decisions made based on command systems and reports alone do not convey as realistic picture of situation as personally feeling the battle. They believe that it is far to let commander to trust his personal observations than rely on cold calculations of what can and cannot be done in a battlefield. What is left unsaid is that experiencing battle and moving personally there makes commander far more humble on what enemy can and cannot do as well. In addition, this encourages commanders to reach for conclusions and make decisions quickly based on what they personally see and feel supplanted with information provided by command systems.

CEF military command process is built on concept that commander receives order, makes decision (and prepares orders if necessary) and relays orders to his subordinates. Time is critical commodity because when too much time is spent on planning the situation may be totally changed when orders are relayed down to foxhole level. At the same time, acting without plan is lethal as well. The trick is to find a golden rule between these extremes. Command systems and advanced communications made it possible to relay orders in real-time to every level but the bottleneck was not on getting orders to subordinates in time, but in making the decisions and orders quickly.

CEF planners started to ponder their command process seriously. CEF bases its military authority as unified leadership. This principle concentrates all powers -but also all responsibilities- to commander. It is based on duty held. Service age or military rank does not count. Leader with junior rank may often be commander to other leaders holding higher military rank. Unified leadership extends also to military units regardless of unit's affiliation or service. There are no 'supporting units' that give commander most (some) of their effort while carrying out their own work independently. CEF system does not allow shadings. Leader either has full authority and responsibility or none. This simplifies command arrangements greatly as there are no parallel headquarters of various arms supporting each other. Because CEF fields only small combined arms headquarters the work concentrated on cutting down number of command levels necessary to relay orders down. For example a headquarters responsible for campaigning in a continental or planetary could manage almost a dozen or so headquarters. There was a limit to this as well because in lowest levels commander cannot really lead effectively more than 3-4 units.

With number of various headquarters trimmed down the next problem was making sure the commanders would make their orders quickly and efficiently. CEF sees here two methods they are using. First is commander-centered leadership and second is parallel decision making process. CEF commander will upon receiving order make a quick evaluation of situation (at higher levels usually aided by few senior operation officers) and make a decision on what to do. Commander will then gather his staff and state what he wants to be done, immediately. There are no staff conferences or asking of opinions to clutter the issue. Staff members either acknowledge it or state their disagreement (with hopefully good reasons or else). His decision is then relayed to subordinates who start their own command process while staff works to turn commanders decision into a definite order that is relayed to subordinates when it is done. This kind of command process stresses role of command as a leader as well as supports rapid decisions and quick action, which is exactly what CEF wants. When their enemies still argue what to do, CEF moves already.

Firepower, hover mobility on all units, rapid decision making and aggressiveness of action all form together a CEF way of warfare. Enemy will be engaged in entire depth of combat zone simultaneously to create a single massive blow that will force enemy off-balance. This will be followed immediately with exploiting CEF units pouring right into depth of enemy defenses to encircle and subsequently destroy enemy units. Far beyond them raiding forces will maneuver their way through enemy rear areas striking at highly valuable targets, such as headquarters and logistic centers, creating chaos and panic leading ultimately to collapse of organized enemy defenses.

CEF sees deep battle concept as their key to unlock enemy defenses. They attempt to attack enemy command system first and keep on attacking it consistently throughout the campaign. Principal targets are enemy's eyes and ears (sensor systems), his brain (leaders, computers, headquarters, command systems and battlefield management systems), and nervous system (communication systems). At the same time everything will be done to prevent enemy from doing the same against CEF. Targets are dispersed and hardened, deceptions attempted and alternative measures used. Another advantage is psychological. Striking enemy deep in their rear area makes them feel that they are nowhere in safety. This forces enemy to spend resources on protecting themselves. It also strains nerves on human soldiers lowering morale among enemy. With luck rumors and nervousness can cause indecision and ultimately even panic among enemy troops in some local position. CEF sees its own human troopers as vulnerable as enemy but GRELs have quite well earned reputation for iron will and coping with stress of combat. Thus various stress reduction methods and constant coaching by political officers are used to shield CEF soldiers mentally. Deep battle really aims to make enemy incapable of responding to CEF action. When enemy is paralyzed (or more realistically slowed down), CEF will have considerably easier time to carry on its own operations.

CEF sees more and more as a positional defense as a thing of the past. They see three factors working against trusting defense into static positions. First, CEF cannot simply field enough men or resources to build up a mass army. They have to move everything they use to the planet to be conquered. In addition, the cost of their high technology war machine was such that even NECs seemingly endless cash coffers could not build a mass army of that caliber. Second, the enemy firepower forced troops to disperse wide over battlefield. Thus positions were simply too widely dispersed to allow continuous line much less deep defensive zones. Situation is made even worse that enemy conventional firepower is enough to blast a way through any line or defensive zone. Finally, vertical movement in form of helicopters and hovertanks as well as large airborne formations limited advantages of static positions along favorable terrain, such as cities and mountains.

CEF expects that their enemy is doing exactly same against CEF at the same time. End result is chaotic battlefield where offence and defense blur into one and same battle. One can not anymore say that one side has initiative where other side is holding back. Both sides will perform a series of action of both ways with the proportions changing suddenly as situation develops. Flow of battle is no more depicted by initiative in a single axis or battlefield but a momentum of movement in entire campaign. Measuring the success of momentum is so difficult and battlefield so complex that commanding whole affair will remain strictly an art of war rather than any exact military science. Because situation changes so quickly and units move fast there will always be open flanks and opportunities to exploit. These opportunities come and go so fast, that time becomes the most important thing in battle. This requires excellent command system and rapid execution of orders -if necessary- on own initiative.

CEF planners see rapid action as a norm and well-prepared and planned offensives as extremely rare occurrences. They believe that most typical form of fighting will be meeting engagement, where both sides maneuver aggressively to attack each other, for example to do a counterattack or when both sides race to conquer a vital piece of terrain. Speed is essential in this kind of fighting. Therefor CEF has established a series of immediate action drills for lower level units so that they can snap into action immediately acting before their enemy has gotten their act together. Drills are essentially generic templates of action that troops have rehearsed beforehand for use in combat. Drills are not -however- only solutions in bag of tricks for CEF commander and they do not replace -only supplant- his own plans, ideas and judgement. Reliance to drills alone would turn CEF actions to stereotypes that could be predicted (and subsequently exploited) by enemy. Thus drills are only aids and any CEF commander is free to use what ever he sees best for the situation.

If tactics is a skill to win a battle, operations are the skill to run a series of battles in a campaign. CEF planners do not see anything really changing in war itself. They still see basic principles of war, such as concentration of effort to selected point, surprise and maintaining clear goal of action, as valid as always. Names of principles and their collection into several groupings have changed according to times as well as special emphasis given to some of those principles. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Despite all the assurances CEF commanders as a group have several dominant traits that have crept into their fighting style.

First there is a marked tendency towards line of thought that first and foremost goal in campaign is to destroy enemy troops as a whole. Logic goes that when enemy force is gone, the territory will land into CEF lap like a ripe fruit. This is logical consequence of CEF near obsession of making enemy for incapable of continuing battle. While there is much to applaud in this line of thought, there are cases when CEF commanders change goals unthinking the subject in the middle of campaign. Plans change from pesky detail of marching to enemy heartland and forcing them to collapse into glorious slaughter of enemy forces trapped in battlefield. While CEF achieves this way a fearsome body count, enemy with large reserves can afford to lose some men while slipping to regroup to fight another day.

When this tendency is combined with CEF trademark aggressiveness, CEF commanders at times tend to bite more than their troops can chew. CEF has excellent mobility allowing them to withdraw quickly when situation overwhelms them but their willingness to take anyone in field often leads to series of brutal confusing battles. Again enemy with large reserves can afford to send bait to lure CEF force looking for a fight into a trap. This can be dangerous to trapped CEF unit but it is always very dangerous to their enemy who might actually notice CEF main forces joining to battle to encircle them. As a matter of fact the difference between CEF trap to lure its enemies into a battle and their enemies trap to lure CEF into their clutches seem to be blurred (some would say non-existing) at best.

Second, CEF has marked tendency to reinforce success rather than follow plan when things get difficult. Operations depend on tactical battle so that CEF will not put their main effort into offensive unless they have managed to explode a hole into enemy defenses so they can slip raiding units in. CEF will instead abort their operation and defender has thus managed to win at least a respite while CEF looks for another opening in defenses. They look for gaining momentum in their offensive operations. Because there is no objective measurement for momentum CEF commander follows progress various data collected during campaign. Actual decision process and command system data and calculations are naturally top secret and change according to individual campaign and operation. However, due CEF tendency to concentrate on destroying enemy units body count figures (and numbers f destroyed enemy material) are prominent. CEF commanders look at casualty ratios, supply levels and force strength ratios and decide if campaign is going well or not. For example, campaign is stopped if enemy withdraws in good order and has most of its forces intact while CEF has burned out most of its supplies. Again enemy with reserves can sacrifice part of his troops to make campaign seem unprofitable to CEF.

Furthermore, CEF puts so much emphasis on deep battle that use of exploiting raiding units has become almost de rigeur in campaign. Most of the time units on raiding are ordinary units kept in reserve for unleashing in exploitation phase but at times they are reconnaissance or special operations forces, such as Special Duty Unit. Enemy can try to guess what CEF is trying to do by looking where these units are heading for in their rear. For example, capturing certain choke points (such as mountain passes) give a good indication where CEF offensive is headed for allowing enemy to prepare. Then again, there are two who can play this game. At times CEF ruthlessly burns its SDU units to create impression of main effort in one sector while they are making their real move in another.

Summa Summarum: CEF way of warfare -the concept of shock and speed- is not without its problems, quirks and giveaways. Then again, there is nothing certain in a war.

Welcome to the future.

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