Future Operating Environment
Objective Force 2028By Paul Dehnert October 29, 2020
Location: An operational theatre in the near region a few years from now…
From his position on the edge of the tree line the section commander scanned his head up display and confirmed the objective grid was correct. His rifle mounted thermal sight and optics confirmed the presence of an enemy team in the building some 300m in the distance. The second hands ticked down to H Hr. Just as the first grey light of dawn streaked the eastern horizon a flash of white light and corresponding rush of a shockwave washing over him confirmed the long range rocket artillery strike was in progress, directed by the drone orbiting soundlessly off to the north in the brightening morning sky.
The junior leader passed confirmatory orders to his team via the all informed net, that it was time to break from the tree line and sweep the objective. Soundlessly both human and AI bots moved from cover and with short, assured bounds moved towards the flaming ruin that was the objective.
No enemy combatants were alive after the strike. The section swept across the area and then conducted an exploitation for anything of intelligence value. The Section Commander mused that the ability to live stream back to the BG HQ and ISR Fusion Cell in real time was a bonus.
Once the objective clearance was wrapped up, the commander called forward his AI ‘Pack Mule’ to recover and load the items of value from the search. The pack mule bot also carried the section piquet master remote sentry and weapon system. Three such devices were in each semi-autonomous force element. The ability to detect anything moving across a variety of spectrums and engage it at distance in any weather, helped all members of the micro combat team sleep a little more soundly. He wryly smiled and remembered when these groups of warriors were called platoons….
With the mission completed the section moved back to the extraction point. At the designated RV, the paired AI and human members fanned out and provided all round security. Shortly the IFV’s arrived and extracted them. The CPL mounted up in an autonomous vehicle. He still marvelled that the mechanised platoon was half crewed, half autonomous – and you really could not tell the difference.
The return journey to the forward operating base was uneventful. The route ahead was cleared in advance by UAV and ground sensor assets which passed real time information to both the JTG and tactical headquarters. Instant information access was great for generating tempo, but also had its detractors. One undeniable truth was it made it difficult for the enemy to interdict the unit’s movements without being compromised, and in turn targeted. At one point the Mech PL had to break track while a self-propelled artillery battery passed in the opposite direction. The ability for the gun battery to ‘shoot and scoot’ before counter battery fires can be brought upon them really was a game changer.
Once the section arrived at the rudimentary Forward Operating Base, the section commander made his way into the CP to be debriefed and download his patrol data. The section second in command commenced post battle procedure of the men and machines. Overhead a swarm of armed and unarmed drones had taken off. They sounded like a swarm of hornets, which was not entirely inaccurate. He was glad he was not going to be in the place where those small quad copters deposited their payloads. He had seen (and been on the receiving end) of that effect before. It still made him shudder a little at the thought of the havoc such seemingly innocuous machines could bring.
He was glad to see the return of his marksman PTE Morgan from wounds sustained on an earlier mission. He had been under care and rehabilitation on the LHD moored offshore and delivered back to the FOB in one of the new fast riverine and littoral combat craft – like a jacked up version of a flat bottom punt on steroids. Those things could really move, and were prickly as a, well, prickly pear. He remembered his numerous unwelcome encounters with these at the School of Infantry- when it was still the School – before it became the ‘Army School of Close Combat’. The happy tank used to be a green and red thing on the range, now it was any number of AFV in the school's mechanised compound. How times change he thought…..