Command Posts - Surviving The Future Fight
by U.S. Army Futures and Concepts Center
June 28, 2020
Following a painstaking movement into position, the division
commander was eager to get the Command Post (CP) up and running before the next
phase of the Corps fight kicked off. Moving the 20+trucks and
trailers into position was agonizing but the area where the division
main was set up seemed tactically sound, with decent cover and
concealment; but the CP was still pretty easy to recognize if you
knew what you were looking for.
After what seemed like an eternity, his CoS finally told him the
systems were up and running—just in time, as the lead BCT was only a
few hours away from the division attack. The commander concluded the
update with his subordinate commanders and walked over to his
vehicle to prep to move to the LD with his lead BCT. As he sat down
and opened an MRE for a final meal before the attack, he looked up
noticed a small UAV.
“That’s odd,” he thought. Suddenly, the nearby IFPC roared to
life engaging the UAV and several targets out of the range of his
vision. Realizing what was occurring—but before he could react—he
witnessed a tremendous explosion in the middle of the CP… The last
thing the division commander saw was a bright white light as an S300
warhead detonated five meters from where he was standing. He, as
well as 80% of the DMAIN staff and equipment, were killed or
destroyed by an S300 battery minutes after it received FMV footage
from the small, disposal Russian UAV.
As the Army increases
focus on large scale combat operations (LSCO), there is a renewed
emphasis on assessing vulnerabilities. Recent events in Eastern
Europe demonstrate that command posts (CPs) are not only susceptible
to detection but that they can be destroyed within minutes if they
do not adapt. To address this, the Army must understand how a peer
adversary will exploit CP vulnerabilities; and then develop improved
survivability approaches to mitigate detection and attack, while
maintaining effective command and control (C2) that ensure the
success of the operations they are designed to orchestrate.
Today’s Command Post
Army CPs at all echelons are vulnerable
to interdiction by forces with advanced Intelligence, Surveillance
and Reconnaissance (ISR) and long-range fires. A
significant problem is that legacy CPs are not only large ... but
technological advances make them especially vulnerable to signature
detection (physical, electromagnetic, thermal, acoustic, etc.).
This, combined with insufficient mobility and hardening create the
conditions leading to this article’s opening vignette.
U.S. Army Major General Steven Ferrari stands with soldiers of Task Force Spartan at the site of their mobile command post exercise at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait on April 25, 2020. This exercise was designed to hone Soldiers skills setting up the mobile command post. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Trevor Cullen)
While many commanders try to mitigate what they can control, the
Combat Training Centers show that most units still struggle with
command post survivability. CPs remain high-payoff targets for
adversaries and the Army’s success in the future will be grounded in
the ability to operate from CPs that can survive where advanced
technological capabilities will be employed against them - in
contested, large-scale combat operations.
What We Are Doing
As part of ongoing modernization efforts, the Army is
working to assess and develop solutions that improve CPs’ ability to
survive in the next major conflict. To address enhanced EMS
capabilities, Army Futures Command (AFC) established a Focused
Research Team dedicated specifically to the signature management
problem. The broad approach includes experimentation, studies,
interim infrastructure enhancements, trend analysis, and Research
and Development efforts. Collectively, these efforts seek to
understand the problem by assessing adversary capabilities,
identifying friendly vulnerabilities, and formulating solutions that
Adversary Signals Intelligence is assessed as
the most dangerous threat, providing enemies the ability to rapidly
detect CP signatures. A detected CP is quickly targeted by enemy
indirect fire, delivering rapid and lethal area munitions while
Cyber and EW attacks effectively “fix” friendly systems. To maximize
survivability CPs must make themselves harder to detect by reducing
or obscuring emissions and they must remain highly mobile to
mitigate the threat from indirect fires – remaining able to displace
within minutes. Some near-term mitigation efforts are already
The Army begins fielding the first generation of CP
Integrated Infrastructure (CPI2) early next year. CPI2 should enable
more dispersed operations, reduce footprints, allow continuous
operations through redundancy, and improve signature management
through enhanced camouflage and concealment. Furthermore, studies
identify the requirement for CP leadership to see their own
electronic signature, allowing them to increase survivability and
signature management operations. Multiple mid- and far-term
technical solutions are also aggressively under development.
Together, these technical and operational solutions will address the
full range of survivability and signature management challenges—and,
if used collectively, will significantly reduce risks.
Survivability and Signature Management Requires A Holistic Approach
No single approach provides a complete solution. A combined
approach, integrated across DOTMLPF-P provide the best option to
defend against the range of adversary counter-C2 capabilities. CPs
must remain undetected from threat surveillance systems while
maintaining effective C2. Commanders must balance survivability with
effectiveness, realizing that all components need to be considered:
supporting units, protection, emitters, power, personnel density,
Many non-technical means are available to maintain combat
effectiveness including establishing an integrated defense (air
defense, security, etc.), frequent movement, dispersion,
concealment, deception, camouflage, and protective positions.
Additional non-technical changes include recent organizational
changes like force design updates to the headquarters at division
and corps level that account for survivability by creating
redundancy in all staff functions.
Army leadership must understand the significance of the situation
and this begins with an institutional introduction to the problem,
reinforced through education and training.
highlight practices that can be trained to now reduce vulnerability.
These techniques such as PACE plans, frequency hopping, limiting
transmission times, standardized reporting formats, antenna masking,
and the use of directional antennas reduce both threat detection and
targeting. Emissions control (EMCON), control measures used to
manage signatures, should be doctrinally described, implemented, and
enforced by all echelons.
Training good practices, such as cell phone discipline and radio
procedures, are also critical to developing a survivable CP.
Training can also focus toward proactive enemy interdiction methods
such as how to recognize jamming (communications, radar, satellite,
and GPS) and how to implement responsive techniques against jamming.
Continued analysis, research,
experimentation, development, and training are required to mitigate
CP vulnerabilities now and in the future. Even with new capabilities
on the horizon, the commander must assess risk and operate their CPs
in the most effective manner to maximize force survivability and
ensure mission success. Science and technological advances will
continue to lay the groundwork for future capability development,
but individual and unit training must complement and enhance these
new and improved capabilities.
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