Combined arms operations are the mainstay of our Army, the foundation to the way we practice war. A manoeuverist approach is critical to combined arms warfighting, striking the enemy’s centre of gravity whilst shielding our own. We have long practiced manoeuvre warfare as an Army. Its nature will remain enduring in our doctrine for decades to come.
Our Army finds itself in somewhat of a tumultuous position currently. With the recent release of the 2023 Defence Strategic Review, we have found ourselves seeking to transition from the ‘balanced force’ model we currently practice into an ‘integrated force’ harnessing effects from across the five domains. The land component of the joint force must transition towards specialised niches. To quote the Commander of the 2nd (Australian) Division, focussed efforts generate focussed effects. The RAAC on the whole, and the reserve cavalry regiments in specific, will need to be at the forefront of this paradigm shift. The ARes RAAC regiments are in a state of flux as it currently stands, with significant organisational change in the form of a platform and ECN change on the horizon. Looking at the combined arms warfighting context of 2045, we currently hold the opportunity to redefine our role within our division and the Army on the whole. With the Second (Australian) Division being provided vital tasking in the DSR into the near future, the role of light cavalry will become vital, more closely in line with the traditional suite of cavalry tasks.
Light cavalry regiments provide an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) effect to battlegroup and formation commanders. Rapid advancement in technology has both simplified and complicated this task for reserve cavalry soldiers. Advances in optics and communications will enable cavalry troops to detect, recognise and identify (DRI) faster and at greater distances. The increasingly contested cyber and EM spectrum will introduce new complexities to timeliness of reporting and co-ordination. The light cavalry troop will need to overcome these in order to achieve the integrated effect expected of it in a combined arms warfighting setting.
The light cavalry troop of 2045 will employ a layered net of sensors both manned and unmanned to facilitate rapid DRI of battlefield threat actors. Incorporation of ground and aerial unmanned systems to supplement long range day and night capable optics and ground radars will enable the light cavalry troop to answer commander’s Priority Intelligence Requirements (PIRs) with unprecedented speed and accuracy. Incorporation of AI and augmented reality will enable speed of reporting and analysis, with light cavalry commanders being able to operate over a larger area, using AI with a defined set of PIR criteria and priorities to triage sightings of potential high payoff targets and enable a subsequent weighted ISR effort by the troop towards detection of these targets. Operating in accordance with the vision set out in the DSR, the light cavalry troop will act as a part of the integrated force. On detection of high priority or high payoff targets, the light cavalry commander will be able to employ retransmitted sensor feeds to a higher commander to enable rapid, real-time assessment and decision on whether to strike the target.
The key facet of the new age of Australian combined arms warfighting is integration, not just with other arms, but also with other agencies. Light cavalry commanders of 2045 will need to understand how to co-ordinate with other agencies and partner forces, both in the defence of Australia but also offshore operations. Light cavalry forces must be prepared for increased instances of warfighting operations, but also HADR support to neighbours in the Pacific region. Operation with partner agencies will increase alongside battlefield complexities, and with the dawn of hybrid warfare, cavalry will need to be at the forefront of this change. The nature of cavalry reconnaissance is that it is generally at the forward edge of the battlespace. With the fog of war becoming increasingly prevalent and hybrid threats such as conventional military forces operating alongside guerrilla and criminal organisations, the light cavalry troop will need to be capable of operating alongside and integrated with civilian law enforcement agencies – or emergency services and NGO personnel in the case of HADR operations – to ensure completion of missions when interacting with a civilian populace during operations.
Cavalry integration with the RAN and the RAAF will also be key in the combined arms setting of 2045. Light cavalry serve an important detection function and integration with our partner services will enable a shortening of the battlefield kill chain and enable rapid and lethal prosecution of key battlefield targets. The light cavalry troop should be empowered to detect and assess a priority target and then co-ordinate long range fires onto it whether that is in the form of RAA missile artillery, RAAF strike aircraft, or RAN naval gunfire. The targeting of a critical vulnerability to undermine a threat centre of gravity is foundational to Australian combined arms manoeuvre warfare. With cavalry traditionally acting as the ‘eyes and ears’ of formation commanders, they will often act as the primary point of detection for brigade or divisional assessed PIRs. A light cavalry force operating in an integrated manner should hold the equipment and be empowered to facilitate targeting of these key vulnerabilities, regardless of what they are. The destruction of the most hardened of targets is not within the organic remit of the light cavalry troop; however, the co-ordination of the assets that do hold this capability should be within the scope of the light cavalry toolbox.
Looking into the future, a 2045 light cavalry organisation will possess the means to act as an integral part of senior commander’s ISR plan; equipped to enable DRI of any battlefield actor, efficient reporting in a contested EM spectrum, and – where necessary – the means to facilitate integrated targeting for the delivery of offensive support. This high level integration will enable the light cavalry troop to be a powerful commander ISR asset and fundamentally embodies the principles and spirit of manoeuvre warfare. In a region where we are punching above our weight class, efficient and lethal integration is an absolute necessity and is vital to achieving success on the battlefield. Light cavalry soldiers and officers seek to embody a bias for action. The spirit of aggressive integration to enable rapid identification and destruction of key enemy capabilities will become the core role of the light cavalry and will solidify their position as a key ISR enabler for commanders of the future.
Combined arms operations in 2045 will leverage lessons learnt now and will require significant integration and orchestration to ensure success in contested air, land, sea, space, and cyber domains. Integrated reconnaissance will be more important than ever before. The light cavalry troop and organisation on the whole will provide commanders with a robust ISR asset capable of a variety of collection methods to ensure flexibility and redundancy in their ISR plan. The future will require unprecedented adaptability from the RAAC – and the corps stands ready to deliver.