Air University Review, May-June 1984

The Evolution of the Airland Battle Concept

John L. Romjue

ANY review of U.S. Army tactical doctrine in the post-Vietnam era must focus on the Army project that went under the rubric of "the AirLand Battle." Contained in the fused syllables of this phrase were significant changes in battle doctrine. The changes were the culmination of several years of intensive doctrinal work by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and were marked by considerable debate both within and outside the Army. This major project reflected the seriousness with which the Army, since the early 1970s, had regarded the technological edge that the Soviet Union was gaining in that decade in the tactical weaponry of its numerically stronger forces opposite NATO in Europe. In preliminary form, the new concept was first formally published in March 1981. After wide briefing throughout the defense establishment and to the highest levels of government, the AirLand Battle concept became official Army doctrine when further developed and infused into a revision of the key tactical manual, FM 100-5, Operations, published in August 1982.

In great part, the AirLand Battle concept sprang from the doctrinal perspective of General Donn A. Starry, who began a four-year tenure as the TRADOC commander at Fort Monroe, Virginia, in July 1977. Together with the major Army 86 Studies undertaken by Starry and his planners during 1978-80 to define new tactical field organization, AirLand Battle doctrine bid fair to be the dominant influence on the modernizing Army of the 1980s.

The development of the AirLand Battle concept and an explanation of the concept itself will be the focus of this article. Since the concept has roots that precede 1977, the contributions of General William E. DePuy, the first TRADOC commander, are worth considering first.

The DePuy Reforms

When General DePuy took over TRADOC in 1973, one of the most pressing problems that the Army faced was the need to update its weaponry. Fulfilling the immediate quantitative needs of the Vietnam War had interrupted the weapon development process for almost a decade, giving the Soviet Union nearly a generational gain in most categories of combat equipment. With little prospect of adequate funding, General DePuy, his staff, and his commanders set about defining and defending the engineering and development programs that would produce a much needed new generation of weapons.

In addition to his efforts in behalf of weapons development, DePuy had taken an intense interest in the reform of tactics and training, in line with tactical lessons drawn from the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. Out of this interest and attendant study had come the sharply revised Field Manual 100-5, Operations, of July 1976.1 The new manual emphasized the critical demands of "the first battle of the next war" on a battlefield where tempo and the destruction of materiel would dramatically surpass that of previous wars. The manual stressed better training, suppressive tactics, terrain use, and combined arms coordination to counter increased lethality of weapons of the 1970s. From the 1976 manual flowed a generation of practical "how-to-fight" tactical field manuals and training literature.

Finally, General DePuy initiated efforts to reorganize Army combat forces with the Division Restructuring Study and Evaluation of 1976-78. This project aimed at reorganizing the heavy divisions to harness the combat power of the oncoming new weaponry.2

These efforts, which DePuy led, were notable. Significant changes to modernize the Army were well along when General Starry replaced General DePuy as the commander of TRADOC in 1977. But there was still much to do. For one thing, the 1976 version of FM 100-5 had set in motion a pointed and lively doctrinal debate that raised important questions that needed to be answered. These doctrinal questions, along with issues associated with the Army's field organization, would consume much of General Starry's energy during his years as TRADOC commander.

The Early Starry Initiatives

In assuming command of TRADOC, General Starry brought with him a close interest in tactical doctrine that had been sharpened by his experience as a corps commander in Germany between 1976 and 1977. He saw the potential battle facing NATO forces as a structured "central battle" to be fought methodically and aggressively against attacking heavily armored forces of the Warsaw Pact. Based on the active-defense tactics outlined in the 1976 version of FM 100-5, this central battle would focus on a firepower battle along the forward edge of the battle area (FEBA). In General Starry's eyes, this concept still overlooked a crucial factor--the enemy's massive second-echelon forces, which, according to Soviet doctrine, would roll through the first echelon and exploit any advantages the first echelon might have gained.

In November 1978, through a major TRADOC planning document called the Battlefield Development Plan, General Starry depicted a battlefield view and weapon requirements concept based on fundamental components of the central battle, such as "target servicing," suppression and counterfire, and air defense. To the central battle and its tasks were added the concept of "force generation" and its various subordinate tasks, such as interdiction of enemy second-echelon forces at the commander's discretion and reconstitution of his forces as the battle progressed.3 In force generation, the central battle commander had a responsibility at least as important as the initial assault. This responsibility involved "seeing deep" into the enemy's rear and concentrating combat power to attack the enemy second-echelon forces before they reached the battlefield. General Starry's aim in using the framework of the Battlefield Development Plan was to get division and corps commanders away from thinking in terms of branch organizations and capabilities. He wanted them to think instead in terms of new functions and concepts that he thought had become critically important in modern battle.

Starry also questioned features of the Division Restructuring Study of his predecessor and in October 1978 launched the major Division 86 project. This study, a commandwide effort, was based on the battlefield view and concepts of the Battlefield Development Plan. The Division 86 Study stimulated doctrinal thinking and was extended by the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Edward C. Meyer, in late 1979 into the larger Army 86 Study, encompassing not only the heavy division but the light division, corps, and echelons above corps organizations of the future Army.4

At the same time, a spirited doctrinal debate about the operations manual of 1976, FM 100-5, was occurring both within and outside the Army.5 Although critics generally liked and welcomed the 1976 manual for its clarity and stress on the tactical ramifications of the new lethality of modern weapons, they scored it on a number of important points. These included the manual's perceived defensive orientation, its dependence on tactics that appeared to emphasize firepower and attrition rather than maneuver, its apparent abandoning of the concept of a tactical reserve, and its emphasis on the Soviet breakthrough operational maneuver. As commander of the Armor Center at Fort Knox, Kentucky, during 1973-76, General Starry had contributed to the development of the 1976 manual. Now, several years later, he found himself in the position of defending and reconsidering different aspects of the manual.

The Extended Battlefield

Increasingly, the doctrinal inquiries of Army 86 had pursued the idea of a deeper battlefield or, as Starry and his planners began in 1980 to call it, the "extended battlefield," What they meant was that the battlefield had a deeper physical dimension, a time dimension, an airland dimension now more critical than ever before, and a possible chemical and nuclear dimension. Brigade, division, and corps commanders had to see deep into the enemy's rear and to act to delay, disrupt, and destroy enemy second-echelon forces while simultaneously fighting the assaulting forces. A brigade commander looking beyond his forward line of own troops (FLOT) had to influence events up to 15 kilometers into the enemy's rear. A division commander had to influence events up to 70 kilometers beyond the FLOT, and the corps commander up to 150 kilometers. The commanders' areas of interest extended still deeper. But more important was the distance in time from the forward line to the oncoming enemy echelons, for this time governs the point when commanders must take action--12 hours away for the brigade, 24 for the division, and 72 for the corps. To handle this new depth of the modern battlefield, U.S. land and air forces had to wage a synchronized, fully integrated AirLand Battle.

In the interest of improved clarity, General Starry chose "AirLand Battle" as the title for the new concept that involved such a close interaction between all air and ground capabilities.

The extended battlefield concept was much more offense-oriented than that of the central battle of two years earlier. It reflected the effects of the doctrinal debate that centered on the 1976 manual's alleged emphasis on the defense and on attrition warfare. But the extended battle view also encompassed a significant new element. In answer to the manifest readiness of Warsaw Pact forces to employ tactical nuclear and chemical weaponry, Army and TRADOC planners took steps during 1979-80 to include these aspects of what is known as the "integrated battlefield" into their tactical planning.

Noteworthy here were the results of the Army's tactical nuclear systems program review held at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in December 1979. During the program review, Field Artillery Center planners had laid out analytical descriptions of the tactical nuclear battlefield for the Army to see. A targeting analysis by the Fort Sill planners showed that well-planned interdiction of the enemy's second or "follow-on" echelons not only could blunt the force of the attack but could critically interrupt its momentum. Interdiction could, in this way, create periods of U.S. tactical superiority. During these periods, the initiative could be seized for offensive action and the release authority for tactical nuclear strikes, if needed, could be secured. Thus, well-planned interdiction could create "time windows" for action that would not otherwise exist, given the enemy's great superiority in numbers and firepower, thereby offering significantly wider opportunities for offensive action and maneuver.6

Still another doctrinal change occurred when, under the influence of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the beginning of the Iranian hostage crisis in late 1979, Carter administration officials grew interested in the military demands for the non-NATO world. For the Army, the change was formally announced by General Meyer in a white paper of February 1980.7 TRADOC's light division study of 1979-80 and the subsequent high-technology testbed project undertaken by the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Washington, inaugurated doctrinal forays into the non-NATO arena. To these projects were added studies of a contingency corps and its higher command echelon and a 1983 effort to create a 10,000-man light division.

Introducing the New Doctrine

It was from these events of the 1970s that the extended battlefield concept emerged. TRADOC presented the concept at the Army Commanders Conference of October 1980, and General Meyer approved it at that time. A team headed by the U.S. Army Combined Arms Combat Developments Activity at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, briefed the concept to all of the Army's major command headquarters in the ensuing months; and it was well received. Favorable responses also came from U.S. Air Force and Army units briefed in Germany and Korea. Meyer approved additional team visits to the corps and divisions during the early part of 1981. The team also took part in a 3d Armored Division test of a special fire support targeting cell concept, which was developed to select high-value targets for interdiction. In V Corps, the team demonstrated how tactical air control systems could support the targeting cells to press the deep attack.

The terminology of "extended" and "integrated" battlefields was awkward and, in part, overlapping in meaning. Even more awkward was the use of the two terms together to describe what TRADOC believed was emerging as a significant new doctrine. In the interest of improved clarity, General Starry chose "AirLand Battle" as the title for the new concept that involved such a close interaction between all air and ground capabilities.8

The development of the new doctrine was one thing; its acceptance by the Army and an influential cadre of civilian defense writers and critics was another.9 Fresh in memory was the debate over the 1976 version of FM 100-5 with its active defense doctrine. In 1981, TRADOC Headquarters proceeded differently from the way it had with the 1976 concept. First, General Starry took pains to include the Army at large in the development of AirLand Battle, disseminating information through briefings and wide circulation of Fort Leavenworth's draft of the new FM 100-5 during 1981. The doctrine was well received. AirLand Battle was an offense-oriented doctrine that the army found intellectually, as well as analytically, convincing.

The concept called for early offensive action, by air and land, to the full depth of enemy formations to defeat an enemy attack.

Second, after General Meyer approved the doctrine, TRADOC seized the initiative in presenting it to the military and civilian public. TRADOC personnel at Fort Leavenworth and Fort Monroe developed briefings about AirLand Battle, as well as a future battle concept for the 1995-2015 period (AirLand Battle 2000), and presented these briefings to Department of the Army action officers in the Pentagon and to the under-secretaries and assistant secretaries of DOD. The AirLand Battle presentation was also offered to members of the Congressional Reform Caucus and, subsequently, to still wider congressional circles, where it was well received. Ultimately, the briefings were given to all principals of the Department of Army staff, to all the service chiefs and their deputies, and to Vice President George Bush.

These briefings stressed the importance of unfettered, imaginative doctrinal thinking. Against Soviet power, an attrition doctrine could not succeed. The U.S. Army had to rely on the strength of Western man, had to exploit his innovativeness, independent thinking, flexibility, and adaptability. According to these briefings, the AirLand Battle could not be adequately described by the traditional football metaphor with its terrain orientation. Rather, it should be seen in terms of a soccer game, where the orientation is on the enemy, the action is fluid, and independent action and maneuver could lead to collapse of the enemy's overloaded system.10

The AirLand Battle briefings thus informed influential Army, congressional, and administration officials about the doctrinal developments accompanying the transition to Army 86 and the new weaponry coming into production and deployment. The briefings of 1981-82 presented a doctrine that corrected the major problems of the 1976 FM 100-5 and appeared very sound.

The Operational Concept
of AirLand Battle

The concept of the AirLand Battle published in March 1981 was explicit about the conditions of modern battle, and it was correspondingly candid about how Army units in combat had to deal with those conditions if they were to fight, survive, and win.11 Topics that had previously been excluded from discussion because of prevailing national policies once again surfaced in the debate. Holding the heavily armored and far more numerous Warsaw Pact forces at risk by early continuous planning to employ tactical nuclear weapons if attacked and threatening to retaliate with chemical weapons should the Warsaw Pact employ its own large and well-trained chemical forces were ideas that could once more be discussed publicly, as they had been in the 1950s and 1960s.

The AirLand Battle dealt with the Army's major and most serious challenge--armored, mechanized, combined arms battle.

The concept called for early offensive action, by air and land, to the full depth of enemy formations to defeat an enemy attack. Mindful of the absence of clear and consistent American political aims in Vietnam and of the Clausewitzian maxim that "war is a continuation of policy by other means," the AirLand Battle concept stated:

. . . once political authorities commit military forces in pursuit of political aims, military forces must win something--else there will be no basis from which political authorities can bargain to win politically. Therefore, the purpose of military operations can not be simply to avert defeat--but rather it must be to win.12

These were forthright statements, clear in intent and disabusing the Soviet Union of any perception that shifting strategic power had opened for it a new freedom of action at theater levels. The AirLand Battle dealt with the Army's major and most serious challenge--armored, mechanized, combined arms battle. The new concept projected an explicitly offensive emphasis and had as its distinguishing feature an extended view of the modern battlefield--extended in both distance and time. The extended battlefield added emphasis on integrated attack by land and air forces and provided options embracing the tactical nuclear and chemical dimensions of modern war.

The authors of the concept did not see deep attack as a matter of choice but as an absolute necessity for winning in an East-West confrontation in Europe. The great numerical superiority of the enemy's follow-on echelons, not the type of operational maneuver the Soviets might employ, was the significant factor that demanded it. The oncoming second echelon had to be slowed and broken up by a battle deep in the enemy's rear that would be fought simultaneously with the close-in contest. The deep attack required tight coordination with the close-in battle so that scarce means of attack would not be wasted. It required that planners not only anticipate enemy vulnerabilities but view this two-part battle as one engagement. With his second echelon disrupted, the enemy would find his operational scheme undermined; and, having lost the initiative, he would be forced to call off the attack.

The overall message conveyed by the AirLand Battle concept of 1981 was that the Army must leave behind the restricted notion of winning the fight only in the traditional "main battle area."

For effective implementation, the concept required sensors and surveillance systems to prevent surprise attack and to gain targeting and surveillance information. Also needed were dual-capable conventional and nuclear systems with the range and destructiveness to put enemy forces at risk, including forces in the second-echelon region. The concept also required command and control systems that operate automatedly and in near real time. When combined, these means make possible a defensive battle, part of which takes place far forward of one's main defensive position. Viewing the enemy far behind its forward line, commanders can begin early to delay and destroy follow-on echelons, while simultaneously engaging and defeating the first-echelon assault; then they can transition to attack and to finish the battle before the arrival of the enemy's remaining follow-on armies.

The concept delineated clearly how the time element figured into the deep battle. It detailed in hour-spans not only the time given to brigade, division, and corps commanders to attack their respective elements of the second-echelon formations but also the time given to see the enemy formations in the still more distant rear. Thus, each commander--brigade, division, and corps--has dual responsibilities under the concept: attack the enemy assault echelon and attack the follow-on echelon of the assaulting force.

The concept embodied a detailed scenario for the second-echelon attack. Critical here was what TRADOC writers called "intelligence preparation of the battlefield." Aided by a network of sophisticated sensor and communications systems, commanders would attack high-value targets to disrupt the enemy's forward momentum progressively. Three primary means of deep attack existed: interdiction (including air power, artillery, and special operating forces), offensive electronic warfare, and deception. The concept stressed an absolute need for an integrated plan of attack aimed at both the assault and the follow-on echelon. Because of the depth of the attack against the second echelon, the air aspect would dominate the early phase of the air and land battle.

The concept stressed that the Army's transition to the tactical ideas of the AirLand Battle had to begin at once. In line with the maxim "we must train as we will fight," commanders in the field had to begin immediately to practice the concepts by which they would fight in the 1980s. Above all, special cells for second-echelon targeting had to be established in all fire support elements. These cells had to be capable of nuclear, conventional, and chemical targeting. To make it all work, the corps had to have control of the requisite aerial sensors and intelligence processors.

The overall message conveyed by the AirLand Battle concept of 1981 was that the Army must leave behind the restricted notion of winning the fight only in the traditional "main battle area." The Army was now "entering a new dimension of battle which permits the simultaneous engagement of forces throughout the corps and division areas of influence." It had to begin immediately to practice, learn, and refine the AirLand Battle concept.13

Concept to Doctrine:
The New FM 100-5

At Fort Leavenworth, in the meantime, work was proceeding during 1981 on the revision of FM 100-5. Selected as principal author was Lieutenant Colonel Huba Wass de Czega, an officer assigned to the Command and General Staff College. General Starry met often with Wass de Czega and his assistants during the writing. Besides the wide staffing throughout the Army, TRADOC invited outside critics and writers to review and discuss the drafts and contribute their thoughts. TRADOC wanted the new FM 100-5 to embody fully the AirLand Battle. In September 1981, the manual was published in draft by Fort Leavenworth.14 This draft was subjected to an extensive review by the Army prior to publication of the finished manual in August 1982.

In today's warfare, as in the past, the force that retains the initiative will win.

Like its predecessor, the new Operations was a significant doctrinal statement.15 Not only did it embody important changes, but it reflected, in line with the shift in national strategic perceptions since the late 1970s, the more confident tone of an offense-oriented military operational doctrine.

In the 1980s, the new FM 100-5 notes, the U.S. Army could find itself in battle in any of a number of places against a variety of opponents: the modern mechanized armies of the Warsaw Pact, similarly organized Soviet "surrogates" in Southwest and Northeast Asia, or lighter well-equipped insurgents or terrorist groups in other parts of the world. However, the manual indicates that the land forces of the Soviet Union are the most serious challenge facing the modern Army.

Today, Soviet doctrine emphasizes the principles of mass and maneuver and seeks victory through a relentless prosecution of the offensive. If nuclear and chemical weapons are required to ensure operational success, the Soviets will use them. Indeed, their basic doctrine assumes such use, and their armies are equipped, armed, and trained to use nuclear and chemical weapons without need to pause for transition.

Against such an enemy, the manual notes, all available military force of all the services must be applied. In today's warfare, as in the past, the force that retains the initiative will win. On the integrated, air-land battlefield, the key to retaining the initiative is disrupting an enemy's fighting capability with deep attack, effective firepower, and decisive maneuver.16 Furthermore, U.S. forces must plan to expect nuclear and chemical operations from the beginning of hostilities. First use of chemical and nuclear weapons by the enemy cannot be permitted to decide the conflict. On the modern battlefield, nuclear fires might well be "the predominant expression of combat power," with small tactical forces being used to exploit their effects. Such engagements would be short and violent. Decisive battles might last hours, instead of days or weeks.17

Modern electronic countermeasures could disrupt effective command and control severely, placing a premium on the initiative of subordinate commanders. Such initiative is a point of emphasis in the new manual, which adapts the German Army principle of Auftragstaktik, the ability of subordinate leaders in combat to act independently in the changing battle within the context of the overall plan. Airmobility, now a Soviet as well as U.S. capability, would, together with air power, extend the battlefield to great depths. For the U.S. Army, logistical lines would be long and vulnerable. Rear areas would be subject as never before to attack and disruption by subversion and terrorist actions and by airmobile, amphibious, and airborne forces, as well as by air interdiction and long-range fires. Combat in built-up areas, including the extensive urbanized sections of West Germany, would be inevitable. All of this adds up to a battlefield situation that would be extremely fluid.

Under conditions such as these, battle would place a premium on leadership, unit cohesion, and effective independent operations. Leaders would need to be more skillful, more imaginative, and more flexible than ever before. Training, the manual writers affirm, is the cornerstone of success in battle, and training for war is the principal peacetime responsibility of all commanders: "On the day of battle, soldiers and units will fight as well or as poorly as they were trained before battle."18 In the Army's units, training must concentrate on leaders and combat teams. Commanders must focus on building confidence and initiative in their subordinate leaders. Unit training must be realistic and as rigorous for support units as for combat units.

It is significant that the new manual again places the principles of war and their application at the center of Army thinking. The principles of war had been pointedly omitted from the operations manual of 1976 in a conscious attempt to avoid theory and to focus on the precise requirements of winning the defensive "first battle of the next war" in Central Europe. What the writers of the 1982 manual were striving for instead was a concept broad enough to encompass operations in all anticipated circumstances.19

The new FM 100-5 adds precision to earlier statements of the AirLand Battle concept. It is explicit about the intent of U.S. Army doctrine, and it conveys a vigorous offensive spirit. AirLand Battle doctrine "is based on securing or retaining the initiative and exercising it aggressively to defeat the enemy. . . . Army units will. . . . attack the enemy in depth with fire and maneuver and synchronize all efforts to attain the objective." it also notes that "our operations must be rapid, unpredictable, violent, and disorienting to the enemy."20

An increase in clarity has been added by inserting into the manual a new level of military art. Between tactics and strategy, the manual inserts the intermediate level traditionally recognized by the German and other armies as the operational level of large units (i.e., the operations of armies and corps that involve activities below the level of military strategy and above the level of tactics). Throughout the manual, the writers held to a clarifying distinction between circumstances and actions at the tactical level and those at the operational level.

Attacks that avoid the enemy's main strength but shatter his will or reduce his fighting capability are the fastest and cheapest way of winning.

The addition of the operational level resulted from a decision made by General Starry's successor at TRADOC, General Glenn K. Otis. This decision was made late in the writing of the manual. The addition of the operational level had been strongly urged by the Army War College and was discussed by German Army reviewers during the staff review process. Indeed, there was much doctrinal interaction with the German Army General Staff during the course of the Army's development of the new FM 100-5. General Starry favored a close doctrinal compatibility with German Army manual 100-100, Command and Control in Battle.

In outlining the dynamics of battle, FM 100-5 delineates the elements of combat power. Here, the manual departs from its predecessor in emphasizing maneuver as the dynamic element of combat. Maneuver is

. . . the means of concentrating forces in critical areas to gain and use the advantages of surprise, psychological shock, position, and momentum which enable smaller forces to defeat larger ones. . . . It is the employment of forces through movement supported by fire to achieve a position of advantage from which to destroy or threaten destruction of the enemy.21

Firepower provides "the enabling, violent, destructive force essential to successful maneuver." Maneuver and firepower are "inseparable and complementary elements of combat."22 Protection, the shielding of the fighting potential of the force in physical and morale terms, is another component of combat power.

The new manual places considerably more emphasis on leadership than had its predecessor. Although not measurable, leadership is an enduring military constant. "Leaders are the crucial element of combat power."23

Into its doctrine of the offense--the destruction of enemy forces--the new FM 100-5 introduces Clausewitz's idea that "when we speak of destroying the enemy's forces . . . nothing obliges us to limit this idea to physical forces: the moral element must also be considered."24 Thus, attacks that avoid the enemy's main strength but shatter his will or reduce his fighting capability are the fastest and cheapest way of winning. Attack against enemy weakness (rather than force-on-force attrition battle) and maintaining the momentum of the initiative are the keynotes of the offensive doctrine. The authors of the manual drew freely on Clausewitz's emphasis on violent effect, combining it with Liddell Hart's doctrine of the "indirect approach," and joining these ideas to the AirLand Battle emphases on initiative, depth, agility, and synchronization. Five elements of offensive action are highlighted as the most fundamental: concentration of effort, surprise, speed of attack, flexibility, and audacity.

New emphases in defensive doctrine also are established in the new FM 100-5. The active defense, dependent on carefully concerted lateral movements by elements of the defending force, had been one of the most controversial elements of the 1976 doctrine. In the new edition, it gives way to a doctrine in which the defensive could vary from a static positional defense to a deeper, more dynamic force-oriented defense of maneuver, as the situation demanded. Defense might be forward or in depth and might rely heavily on strong points. As with the offense, the operational concept of the defense calls for engaging the enemy throughout the depth of his formation to disorganize him and create opportunities for offensive action.

The new manual is more explicit than its predecessor about the question of reserves. The 1976 manual had asserted that a division commander who spread two of his brigades thinly across a wide area, holding his third brigade in reserve, would be defeated by a breakthrough attack.25 But the new manual returns to a more traditional reliance on reserves. Commanders down to brigade normally would retain about one-third of their maneuver strength in reserve.

The shifting of forces by lateral movement that had characterized the active defense is discouraged in the new manual. This movement is now seen to be an especially vulnerable operation that an enemy might easily disrupt or prevent by air or artillery interdiction. Moreover, vacating a sector to move laterally actually invites enemy penetration and is, in any case, psychologically difficult.26

The new FM 100-5 recognizes the inseparability of tactics and logistics: what cannot be supported logistically cannot be accomplished tactically.

Additional sections of the new FM 100-5 outline the problems of how to support a fighting force whose consumption of ammunition, fuel, repair parts, and other logistical supplies could be expected to be enormous. Emphasis is placed on fast forward resupply, forward maintenance, and, where possible, conservation.

The new FM 100-5 recognizes the inseparability of tactics and logistics: what cannot be supported logistically cannot be accomplished tactically. An addition in the new manual is a special section on joint and combined operations, since the U.S. Army in the most likely warfighting situations will be fighting alongside another service or as part of a combined force.

The new FM 100-5 reflects a pronounced sense of history by incorporating a number of germane military maxims. For example, one finds in the new manual the Clausewitzian concept of friction, which explains why in war even "the simplest things become difficult." Also included in the manual are examples from military history, such as General Patton's use of the Norman roads to gain surprise and avoid the heavily defended modern routes. There is also the injunction of Sun Tzu that "the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities," as borne out, for the writers, at Stalingrad and Tobruk.27 The manual also uses brief battle descriptions to illustrate doctrinal points. Two examples are the Vicksburg Campaign, used to illustrate the importance of speed and surprise in the indirect approach, and Tannenberg, as a demonstration of exploiting fluid conditions to transition from the defense to the attack.

Significantly, the new manual notes, as the 1976 manual had not, the political aspect of warfare. Defeating enemy forces in battle does not always ensure victory. "Other national instruments of power and persuasion will influence or even determine the results of wars. Wars cannot be won . . . without a national will and military forces equal to the task."28

Also of importance is the fact that the "airland war" has changed in definition from its 1976 meaning. No longer simply cooperation and mutual support between the land and air arms, AirLand Battle in the 1980s refers to dual and simultaneous battles on the forward line and deep in the enemy's rear echelons, by air power and ground forces working in close concert.

Finally, and not least, the clear turn of phrase and apt metaphor that readers of the 1976 manual had found striking are not lost in the new FM 100-5. Conscious that clear ideas turn on cogent phrases and lucid writing, the manual's writers worked to avoid the pitfalls of jargon and specialty speech. In this aspect, they both borrowed and invented, employing, for example, the arresting Clausewitzian image of the defense as "a shield of blows," along with the AirLand Battle concepts of deep battle and of collapsing the enemy's fighting structure.

With publication of the revised FM 100-5 of August 1982, the concept of AirLand Battle was established as the Army's fighting doctrine for the decade ahead. Intimately bound up with the restoration of U.S. strategic capabilities in the early 1980s, the new doctrine provides a forthright intellectual basis for an army that is reassuming an explicitly offense-oriented readiness. Since it puts the Army in a much better position to defeat a Soviet attack, AirLand Battle is a notable contribution to deterrence as well.

Fort Monroe, Virginia


1. Field Manual 100-5, Operations, Headquarters Department of the Army, 1 July 1976.

2. See John L. Romjue, A History of Army 86, Vol. I, Division 86: The Development of the Heavy Division, Headquarters TRADOC, June 1982, pp. 1-10 and 42-48.

3. Letter ATCD-PD, TRADOC to distribution, 17 November 1978, subj: Battlefield Development Plan. Ten tasks were envisioned as encompassing all aspects of battle. The five critical tasks of the central battle were target servicing, air defense, suppression-counterfire, logistical support, and command-control-communications (C3-electronic warfare. The commander's five critical tasks in force generation were interdiction, C3, force mobility (mine-clearing and bridging), surveillance-fusion, and reconstitution. Several of the critical tasks were later revised.

4. Romjue, pp. 10 ff. and 124.

5. For a discussion of the early debate in the service and defense journals during 1976-78, see TRADOC Annual Historical Review, Fiscal Year 1978, August 1979, pp. 139-54.

6. General Donn A. Starry, "Extending the Battlefield," Military Review, March 1981, pp. 31-50.

7. Chief of Staff, U.S. Army White Paper 1980, "A Framework for Molding the Army of the 1980s into a Disciplined, Well-Trained Fighting Force," 25 February 1980.

8. Message 291305Z January 1981, Commander TRADOC: to distribution, subj: The AirLand Battle.

9. The record is clear that the major intellectual force behind the formulation of AirLand Battle was General Donn Starry. He was aided significantly by the TRADOC Deputy Commanding General, Lieutenant General William R. Richardson, who commanded the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, and by Richardson's staff, in particular the author-designee for the revision of FM 100-5, Lieutenant Colonel Huba Wass de Czega. Major General Jack N. Merritt (Field Artillery Center Commander), Colonel Anthony G. Pokorny, and Lieutenant Colonel Steven Doerfel at Fort Sill helped develop the concept analytically from the central battle ideas of 1977 to AirLand Battle. Pokorny had had an earlier central role in the formulation of the Battlefield Development Plan. Brigadier General Don Morelli played an active role, especially in the briefing of AirLand Battle to DOD, congressional, and administration circles. Important also in the formulative work was Morelli's deputy, Colonel Edwin G. Scribner, and Colonel Frederick M. Franks of the TRADOC combat developments planning directorate. Authorship must be considered multiple and includes many planners not named here.

10. Memorandum for Record ATCS-H, TRADOC Historical Office, 30 January 1981, subj: Concepts and Doctrine Conference, 28-29 January 1981, Headquarters TRADOC.

11. RRADOC Pamphlet 525-5, Military Operations: Operational Concepts for the AirLand Battle and Corps Operations--1986, 25 March 1981

12. Ibid., p. 2.

13. Ibid., p. 21.

14. Field Manual 100-5, Operations (final draft), 4 September 1981.

15. Field Manual 100-5, Operations, Headquarters Department of the Army, 20 August 1982.

16. lbid., pp. 1-5 and 4-1.

17. Ibid., pp. 1-3 and 4-4.

18. Ibid., p. 1-4.

19. Ibid., pp. B-1 to B-5.

20. Ibid., p. 2- 1.

21. Ibid., p. 2-4.

22. Ibid., pp. 2-4 and 7-7.

23. Ibid., p. 2-6.

24. Ibid., p. 8-4.

25. Field Manual 100-5, Operations, 1 July 1976, p. 5-3.

26. Field Manual 100-5, Operations, 20 August 1982, pp. 11 -8 and 11-9.

27. Ibid., pp. 4-1, 3-5, and 3-8.

28. Ibid., p. 1-1.


John L. Romjue (B.A., M.A., University of Missouri) is Deputy Staff Historian for Field History with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Virginia. Previously, he was a Staff Historian at U.S. Naval Facilities Command, Port Hueneme, California, and Command Historian at U.S. Army Combat Developments Experimentation Command, Fort Ord, California. While serving with the Army in Germany, he was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Heidelberg, where he did graduate work in Modern European History and German Literature. Romjue is author of A History of Army 86 and other historical monographs, and he has contributed reviews to Military Review, National Defense, Infantry, and other journals.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

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