Our Joint Task Force: Ready for the futureBy David Caligari September 26, 2019
Our Joint Task Force has never been more ready to face the challenges of tomorrow. Army’s Accelerated Warfare explains that these challenges are created by the changing character of war and demand an evolution in our approach to warfighting. Exercise Talisman Sabre 19 provided the platform to develop this approach using both the Accelerated Warfare (the challenge) and the United States Army’s Multi-Domain Operations (the response) frameworks. These frameworks informed three key developments in our Joint Task Force: an improved Joint Task Force headquarters; enhanced partner cooperation and integration; and a United States-led Multi-Domain Task Force. These developments have significant implications for the future Joint fight.
Potential adversaries can now contest across all domains in unique ways. The rate of technological change is accelerating and near-peer adversaries readily compete below the level of armed conflict within a theatre of operations and from their home state. The release of Army’s Accelerated Warfare is a response to these conditions. The framework identifies that warfare is now more complex, connected and rapid. On the battlefield, weapon systems have superior range and precision, can cause unprecedented or unique damage, and are coordinated and controlled by commanders with unparalleled situational awareness. To be successful in future fights we must make faster, better and more informed decisions.
Multi-Domain Operations reflects the new reality that all domains impact every point on the battlefield. New anti-access / area denial weapons systems can engage targets at ranges rarely seen on contemporary operations. These weapons segment the battlespace into the ‘close’ and the ‘deep’. The deep includes distances not routinely considered by tactical planners—outside the range of field artillery. Missiles, space and cyber capabilities positioned in the deep can be tools used to achieve a decisive effect in the close fight.
The Deployable Joint Force Headquarters practiced Multi-Domain Operations on Exercise Talisman Sabre 19. The first step was to compete (a new interpretation of ‘Phase 0 Shaping’) with the objective of denying adversaries the ability to extend areas of control. If competition is unsuccessful, friendly capabilities were used to penetrate the defensive areas of adversary anti-access / area denial weapons to set the conditions for force entry. Next, the adversary’s defensive areas were disintegrated, or disabled, to allow tactical manoeuvre and thus infantry and armoured forces to enter the fight. This is called ‘exploitation.’ Once these forces are successful, friendly forces move back to the ‘competing’ step.
Deployable Joint Force Headquarters
Entering the Operations Centre of the Joint Task Force in Shoalwater Bay in July 2019 felt like stepping into the future. Displays occupied much of the wall space, touch screens were clustered together for targeting serials, and staff officers and non-commissioned officers moved about busily. This headquarters commanded and controlled over 22,000 soldiers, sailors, marines, air women and men and over 200 aircraft, as well as a United States Carrier Strike Group and an Expeditionary Strike Group. This equated to over seven brigades and provided a significant challenge and opportunity for the headquarters.
The Joint Task Force headquarters penetrated and disintegrated adversary anti-access / area denial systems. A robust targeting process was used to synchronise all lethal and non-lethal effects. The targeting process necessitated the judicious use of force and apportionment of assets to enable Mission Command. In this context, Mission Command meant delegating targeting authorities - empowering a subordinate commander to strike targets - and allocation of suitable assets, such as missiles or anti-armour rockets. Targeting must be conducted dynamically: one infantry commander must not be supported by missiles if she doesn’t need them, and another must be supported by those same missiles if he does. The common operating picture and accurate understanding of the adversary’s position allows planners to make the decision as to which commander gets support. For this reason, the Joint Task Force headquarters was technologically advanced and connected, enabling the selection of the right asset, at the right time, in support of the right unit, on the right target.
Technology is nothing without partnerships and connections. The Joint Task Force headquarters was a Combined and Joint organisation. Within it, the Maritime Operations Centre and subordinate coalition headquarters ensured that the human-to-human networks functioned well. Liaison officers within a Combined Joint Operations Centre supported integration. The Joint Task Force of Exercise Talisman Sabre 19 included participating forces and observers from Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the United States. This included an Infantry Brigade from Hawaii and a Multi-Domain Task Force—a bespoke organisation formed to pursue Multi-Domain Operations. A collegiate attitude and inclusive environment ensured the diverse civilian and military staff excelled.
Multi-Domain Task Force
The Multi-Domain Task Force is an experimental organisation created to generate effects to support tactical manoeuvre during ‘exploitation’ in Multi-Domain Operations. This organisation included long range fires, cyber and space forces, as well as information warfare capabilities. The bespoke Multi-Domain Task Force enabled these elements to be precisely employed at the point of need. It predominantly operated to shape the deep fight to permit forces to operate unimpeded in the close fight. This included targeting an adversary’s means of deploying onto the battlespace through cyber effects, or their navigation and communications systems. The Joint Task Force headquarters managed these effects, consistently degrading the adversary’s ability to influence our infantry soldiers in close combat while seeking to gain or maintain the initiative at the operational level.
Exercise Talisman Sabre 19 reiterated the value of major bilateral exercises to test new frameworks, experiment, and to advance cooperation and integration with coalition partners and civilian agencies. In 2019, the Deployable Joint Force headquarters leveraged two frameworks - Accelerated Warfare and Multi-Domain Operations - to evolve our approach to warfare. The key developments included enhancing our partner cooperation and integration, a new Multi-Domain Task Force and evolving the Joint Task Force headquarters. Our success on Exercise Talisman Sabre 19 has positioned us well for future fights.