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A Pre-Yom Kippur Military

June 24, 2008

You have probably heard of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, also known as the October War, in which Egyptian armies with Soviet supplied weaponry badly trounced the surprised Israeli forces, until the latter with American help, turned the tables on their would-be conquerors. What is little known is that America owes her current tide of military victories stemming from the Reagan Era until today to this very short Middle Eastern conflict. It was within this era that the Pentagon, and especially the US Army leadership decided that the use of the new missile warfare utilized by both sides would be the way in which they would defeat future threats, in many cases to fight outnumbered and win.

At this point America had an advantage on high technology weapons as exhibited in this war and the latter part of the Vietnam conflict. There she had introduced smart bombs, UAVs, and anti-tank TOW missiles, all of which are in standard use today but highly novel then. Despite the fact that in this short period in the early 1970s guided missile warfare finally came of age, we think the US Military took the wrong lessons that are plaguing attempts to modernize our nearly worn and outdated military equipment.

The Egyptian invasion of the Sinai was initially successful thanks to new and advanced weapons bought from the Soviet Union. Along with traditional tanks, artillery, and armored personnel carriers, the Arabs possessed Sagger antitank missiles and man-portable rocket propelled grenades (RPG), plus Goa, Gainful, and Guideline surface to air missiles (SAM). We see today in modern wars in Palestine and Iraq, the ancestors of these small but effective digital weapons can greatly magnify the power of barely industrialized regimes to stand up to superpowers like Israel and America.

The once invincible Israeli Defense Force was horrified that the same Arabs they once conquered so easily in the recent Six Day Warcould stand up to their better trained military. All that saved them was a timely shipment of US anti-radar missiles to destroy the Egyptian SAMs, as well as a belated but wise decision by the Jews to stop sending in their forces piecemeal. A brilliant Israeli crossing of the canal by the Pattonesque Aerial Sharon succeeded in ending the Arab’s chance for a complete victory.

 As I’ve said, the US Army led by the brilliant TRADOC commander General William Depuy, proceeded to adopt lessons learned from the Yom Kippur War. What transpired became famously known as the AirLand Strategy. Instead of utilizing the lessons to see where the new guided weapons fit in modern war, the Army leadership proceeded to learn how to defend their present World War 2 style arms from the same weapons, most notably the tank (the other service also spent vast sums to protect manned planes and surface ships, but that is another story).

Where the new guided missile weapons should have led us out of our quagmire of purchasing increasingly defensive and over-costly Industrial Age weapons, the military proceeded to make these same outmoded vehicles of war even more costly and more geared for the defensive. The insurgents of the Middle East, less mired in last century mechanised warfare of World War 2 have easily accepted the transition. Recently, the Israelis had trouble dealing with such a non-nation group, Hezbollah, a far cry from the major land armies she defeated with ease before Yom Kippur. The new weapons have given the West a “David versus Goliath” complex, which they seem reluctant or unable to shake off.  

America’s army continues to think in terms of pre-Yom Kippur, by planning stealthy vehicles, ringed with composite materials that are driving the defense budget to unsustainable numbers. In the 1990s, plans for replacing Cold War era equipment was considered too high at $60 billion. Now that price has skyrocketed to $200 billion for the Future Combat System. Such spending is too much for even the world’s last superpower, unless we plan to trade our nation’s prosperity for such unneeded wonder weapons.

An Army geared towards the post-Yom Kippur Age might resemble the one we currently field in Iraq. There we deploy increasingly agile forces married to its own UAVs which provide unprecedented battlefield information and increasingly, close air support. With GPS and a radio, the infantryman can call down precision aerial support from bombers flying overhead or even cruise missile ships far out at sea. Armored cars like the Stryker plus new MRAP vehicles are also proving very popular as well as highly survivable on the modern battlefield, despite much doubts to the contrary early on.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. September 23, 2014 4:09 pm

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  2. September 22, 2014 11:16 pm

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  3. June 16, 2011 2:00 pm

    octoper war was a miracle , no it was full of miracles am so proud!!

  4. Bruce permalink
    April 21, 2010 9:44 pm

    Hey,that American 1973 help to Israel cost the US Taxpayer $1.1 Billion.
    Code named Operation Nickel grass.American armour was landed armed and gassed into the battlefield.
    Israel’s last 2006 war on Lebanon saw that same Taxpayer pickup a $220 million IAF aviation fuel bill.Israelis ALSO ran out of precision munitions and US had to rush ammo for Pentagon stockpiles in Europe.Guess who picked up the bill.
    BTW Israel has new Iron dome anti missile defence system financed by US.
    Each missile deployed costs $800,000.
    You can guess the rest $$$$$$$$$

  5. charbookguy permalink
    June 26, 2008 9:38 am

    Distiller, I think the future is with the regional power. Precision weapons, submarines, all give the medium power, without a huge industrial base but wealthy enough (oil wealth?)to afford them the ability to become local superpowers and defend themselves against the big armies, navies and air forces of the old power projection militaries like America and Britain. Check out any article on the 2002 Millennium Challenge exercise on how this might occur (and also a future editorial by yours truly!)

  6. Distiller permalink
    June 26, 2008 12:23 am

    Such a power as described above will stay regional. Of course it might have considerable strategic weight, if located in the right spot, or has the economic capabilities and right allies. And it might raise the cost of going to war with it quite considerably, even for a global power.

    But for global military reach there is no substitute, and never will be, for big industry and technology backed forces. Been that way ever since the sailing ship and branzen cannons.

  7. charbookguy permalink
    June 25, 2008 9:56 am

    No way back, distiller? I believe that a major war often turns obsolete ideas on warfare on its ear. Its either adapt or die, as the army in Iraq has learned. My point is the arms we think are exclusive to insurgency conflict might be used against us, perhaps are being used against us now to defeat the old superpower way of war. The next superpower might be one of these medium size powers with a fairly decent economy and technical skills allowing them to build smart bombs and cruise missiles, but not the supercarriers and heavy tanks which we depend on. Keep your eye on Singapore and her like.

  8. Distiller permalink
    June 25, 2008 2:51 am

    There is no way back. The development and fielding of smart – brillant – autonomous weapon systems just follows technology.

    The real question is the use of these highly expensive systems in the “small war” is justified. The military establishment will never go to a two tier force, one low-tech/selective-high-tech force for small wars, one all-out-high-tech for major wars. But that is probably exactly what is needed, and if not do-able within existing structures, then go the Byzantine way with mercenaries and foreigners whom you promise citizenship and let them do the dirty COIN/CT wars. At one time the Marines did these jobs, but nowadays they are more intersted in building a whole armed force within the armed forces, but not in their old mission.

    And a general note: You might be happy to have defensive-heavy armed forces, as you might not like a Wehrmacht-style offensive army. After all, despite of America waging almost constant international war since T.Roosevelt, the U.S.A.’s expansionistic tendencies are kind of “friendly”.

  9. B.Smitty permalink
    June 24, 2008 6:13 pm

    On the Stryker vs FCS, I believe we need to continue to push the technological envelope. I also believe need to emphasize high-end warfighting capability.

    SBCTs today are not geared towards high-end warfighting. FCS UAs are supposed to be (though the jury’s still out on all the fancy technology).

    Could SBCTs evolve to where FCS UAs wants to be? Perhaps. But they may never have the level of protection, mobility, logistics footprint, and firepower that the FCS promises.

    On replacing the M-16, I agree. If it aint’ broke, why fix it?

    I don’t know if we can get away from a firearm per infantryman, at least not yet. Firearms are just too versatile. I don’t think you’d want a team doing CQB with RPGs, for example, or firing warning shots, or shooting out a vehicles tires.

    The OICW was supposed to put a grenade launcher in every infantryman’s hands, but it failed on numerous fronts (e.g. cost, weight, lethality).

  10. charbookguy permalink
    June 24, 2008 5:33 pm

    Smitty, as far as a M-16 replacement, what about a radical solution of doing away with the hand gun altogether. Something along the line of the Russian RPG which almost ever insurgent in the Third World possesses in large quantities. Perhaps adding some precision technology that will do away altogether with the need for mass firepower, as we have done with the new smart bombs on aircraft.

    Barring this, the the M-16 ain’t broke, why fix it?

  11. charbookguy permalink
    June 24, 2008 5:30 pm

    I believe the funds would be better spent (as far as vehicles) on more Strykers, uavs, and helicopters.

  12. B.Smitty permalink
    June 24, 2008 4:08 pm

    Mrs Davis,

    There have been numerous attempts over the years to design something better than the M-16 family, but every attempt has (so far) failed, on technical or cost-effectiveness grounds.

    In the process, the M-4/M-16 family has evolved to address complaints and become more capable.

    From what I’ve read, there have been more issues with the M249 SAW and M9 pistol than the M-4/M-16.

  13. B.Smitty permalink
    June 24, 2008 3:35 pm

    What about the FCS suite of vehicles is stealthy? Certainly they are aiming for lower acoustic (like the Stryker) and thermal signatures, but that’s hardly stealth. The program office seems to be using that term to be trendy, but the FCS vehicles are more accurately “reduced signature”, IMHO, over their existing counterparts.

    The Stryker uses a layer of MEXAS ceramic armor over a base steel body to stop 14.5mm rounds. Slat is added on top to defeat RPGs.

    My problem with the FCS is it is just trying to bite off too much. It’s not just about a suite of vehicles, it’s also a brand-new communications and computing architecture, group of unmanned vehicles and their control systems, new weapons systems, and organization. It aims to replace virtually everything in a unit’s inventory with new hardware.

    This appears to be a common complaint, as the Army has decided to shift FCS development to “spiral” out certain new technologies to the existing force sooner, rather than wait for the entire FCS system to come online.

  14. charbookguy permalink
    June 24, 2008 2:01 pm

    Mrs. David:
    Isn’t it frustrating that we can put a man on the moon but can’t find an adequate replacement for the M-16? Anyone for bringing back the M-1?

  15. charbookguy permalink
    June 24, 2008 1:57 pm

    I don’t follow you Smitty. The hulking big Stryker with its add-on slat armor is hardly stealthy, save for its speed and quiet engine. And I’m not aware of any composite materials used in the Stryker unless you know something I don’t.

    The Stryker isn’t a great vehicle, but it is good enough, affordable , and easy to build. Kinda reminds you of the old Sherman!

  16. B.Smitty permalink
    June 24, 2008 11:08 am

    “Stealthy vehicles ringed with composite materials”? Sounds like you’re describing the Stryker.

    And it sounds like the FCS program is an advanced version of what we’re currently fielding in Iraq. The statement, “.. increasingly agile forces married to its own UAVs which provide unprecedented battlefield information and increasingly, close air support”, sounds as if it came directly from an FCS sales brochure.

  17. Mrs. Davis permalink
    June 24, 2008 11:02 am

    But with all this expenditure, we still send the infantryman into combat with a primary weapon designed 50 years ago. Sure it’s not as bad as it used to be, but it’s still a high maintenance system of limited capability. I can’t believe we couldn’t design something(s) better with a small slice of the HUMMVEE replacement budget.


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