Discussion on French, Italian and US capabilities

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  1. Frenchie

    Hi TD, I wrote an article about Operation Serval, current and future vehicles of France, doctrine of the use of forces in France and to the U.S. and to say that the FRES program is inoperative for operations of this type.

    In the early days of 2013, terrorist armed groups launched an offensive to the south of the Niger River loop. They then targeted the city of Sévaré and shortly the capital Bamako (200 km).
    The President of Mali requests the assistance of France. On 11 January, the President of the Republic, relying on article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations relating to self-defense, decides to help this friendly country to recover its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Based on movement, speed and surprise, the Operation Serval, in just three months (from 11 January to the end of April 2013), reconquest the northern part of Mali, from the Niger loop to the Algerian border, and reduce the terrorist armed groups nuisance capacity.

    Mali is a landlocked country with very low airport capacity and a degraded road network (only 5 bridges) and distances (1,200 kilometers separating Bamako from Gao and the 600 kilometers separating Gao from Tessalit are each days). The Operation Serval demonstrated the effectiveness of the support system. In just five weeks, more than 4,500 troops and their equipment are projected as well as five field hospitals and 19,000 tonnes of freight (of the volume that France repatriated from Afghanistan in one year). 61% of this projection was carried out by air. With regard to air operations, the French required help from the U.S. military and others allies provided 75 percent of the airlift required and 30 percent of the aerial refueling capability. Operation Serval involved an eclectic fleet of aircraft, including Canadian, U.S. and UK C-17s, and a variety of other aircraft supplied by Belgium, Denmark, Germany, and others. France has used civilian airliners to transport personnel, and it rented Ukrainian Antonovs to supplement the C-17s.

    Operation Serval confirmed the very high level of technical some equipment and materials of the Army. At the height of 1,448 units, including more than 450 armoured vehicles and 800 all types have been deployed. The most recent equipment, the VBCI, the CAESAR gun and the helicopter Tigre, have proved particularly suitable for combat in the theater Malian and constituted a determining surplus value. Their ability to fire has often led to the decision. However, it was not all about technology alone. It is up to Foot infantry loaded from 30 to 50 kg, extremes of 60 ° to 65 ° C on the ridge lines, went “in contact” to flush out terrorists in Gao and the valleys Of the Adrar des Ifoghas.

    Serval has demonstrated the adaptability of wheeled vehicles, their ability projection and autonomous armoured raid on a theater suitable for this type of maneuver, both its elongation by conditions of employment. Each vehicle traveled 2,500 to 5,000 kilometers off-road and on difficult terrain. French logistical capabilities, it should be made clear, were stretched to their extreme limits, even with airlift borrowed from allies. The troops that France rushed to Mali initially had with them only the essentials (in many cases, three days’ worth of food and nine liters of water), and the subsequent focus of logistical efforts remained on providing the bare essentials (food, water, fuel) as troops raced north and east.

    The speed of the maneuver, the very important elongations (six days are necessary to make a round trip between Gao and Tessalit) and the harshness of climate and terrain have forced to make choices, to arbitrate constantly between the capacities to be projected and immediate needs on the ground. As explained by General Grégoire de Saint-Quentin, commander of special operations, a balance was sought continuously between the tactical means and logistics. Thus, the force was defined in terms of logistical support capacities: 1,800 men in Tessalit or in the Adrars, at 1,800 kilometers from Bamako, 20 tonnes of water per day.
    Water (10 liters per day per man), the fuel and ammunition were the daily priorities of the General Bernard Barrera. But in spite of the initial logistical dimensioning and the rhythm of the maneuver, there was no break in either support or capability.

    French requirements have also led them to adopt a force structure well suited for operations such as Serval. Namely, they use relatively lightly armoured wheeled vehicles, which have smaller sustainment requirements compared with heavier, tracked vehicles. This was a good choice for Serval given that the French were operating at the extreme limit of their logistical capabilities. The French assess that mobility is more important than protection, and they gamble that being able to move quickly provides more protection than heavier armour. French doctrine emphasises rapid coordinated movements calculated to maintain the operational initiative, precisely the kind of campaign the French conducted in Mali. This approach worked there.

    The French in Mali demonstrated an ability to tailor their forces, deploying relatively small task-oriented formations. Although it is difficult to compare the French and American armies, in their assessment of the French forces deployed to Mali compared to U.S. norms, U.S. experts believe that the Americans would have sent a larger force with a proportionately larger support element.

    The total force reached roughly 3,400 by the end of January and 5,300 by the end of February. Of those, according to the French military, 1,500 were support personnel, or 28 percent of the overall force. Several experts on U.S. Army operations have indicated that a comparable American force (that is, with comparable capabilities) would have required a larger logistical tail of approximately 40 percent, suggesting that the United States would have had to field a larger force overall.

    Waging war on the cheap necessarily translates into risk, especially if one favors close combat, as the French officers above claim. In contrast to the U.S. Army, which can be described as a “belt and suspenders” institution, which often uses backup or redundant systems, the French army considers such amenities a luxury. Thus, it operated in Mali at or beyond the limits of its sustainment capabilities with a force structure, vehicles, and other elements carefully and optimistically calculated to be little more than sufficient: just enough troops, just enough force protection, just enough helicopters, just enough vehicles with just enough capabilities, and so forth.

    The French army operates a vehicle fleet that is well suited for precisely the kinds of operations it conducted in Mali. France using relatively light, wheeled armoured vehicles that can be transported in C-130s and C-160s as well as driven long distances over poor quality roads and cross country. While lacking the level of protection of main battle tanks and heavy infantry fighting vehicles such as the American Bradley, the wheeled armour units of the French army provide considerable firepower for their weight class, especially when compared with the U.S. Stryker. French infantry fighting vehicles VBCI are equipped with 25mm automatic guns, light tanks AMX-10RC have 105mm guns for a weight of 17 tonnes and ERC-90 have 90mm guns for a weight of 9 tonnes.

    The French nevertheless increase the level of protection, and therefore, the weight of the future vehicles replacing the VAB (which weighs 16 tonnes), the AMX10RC and the ERC-90.
    The armoured reconnaissance and combat vehicle EBRC “JAGUAR” will replace the AMX-10RC and ERC-90 within the decade and the multi-role armoured vehicle VBMR “GRIFFON” will replace the old VAB.
    The VBCI, which is entered in service recently has replaced the AMX10 P, which was a tracked infantry fighting vehicle of 14 tonnes. The VBCI has been deployed to Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, and Mali. The VBMR and the EBRC, which are due to enter service by 2020, are heavier than the vehicles they are intended to replace and offer greater protection, including add-on armour kits. The VBCI weighs in at 32 tonnes, and the VBMR and EBRC are expected to be 20 at 25 tonnes. French developers have focused on maintaining their predecessors’ mobility while enhancing their capabilities, primarily by means of technology-enabling networked warfare. The VBCI, VBMR, and EBRC ostensibly will exercise high degrees of situational awareness and fight in close coordination with networked dismounted infantry, other vehicles, artillery, and air support.

    JAGUAR and GRIFFON are designed to simplify maintenance. For example, they will be equipped with sensors placed on the main vehicle components, such as suspension, brake pads and gearboxes and which allow for “predictive maintenance”.
    They will have standard civilian engines that are militarised, in particular to manage the different fuel types available in Africa and elsewhere in theaters of operations.
    In addition, 70% of the equipment is common for the two vehicles, including suspension, intercoms and acoustic fire detection.
    The JAGUAR and GRIFFON will also be equipped in defense of laser warning detection, missile and shooting, radio and infrared jammers; It will be protected against mines and improvised explosive devices.

    The JAGUAR will be armed with a T-40 CTAS gun, whose the effects are equivalent to a 90 / 105mm gun with a capacity to shoot 200 rounds per minute, as well as two anti-tank missile pods (MBDA MMP) and a 7.62mm machine gun.

  2. Frenchie

    Unlike Serval, which can be thought of as nothing more than an emergency response to a localized crisis in Mali, Operation Barkhane aims to cover the entire Sahel-Saharan zone. This operation is carried out in partnership with the five countries of the Sahel-Saharan zone (Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad), members of the Sahel G5. Its area of operations is the gigantic swathe of territory from the Atlantic coast of Mauritania to Chad’s border with Sudan, a vast area like Europe. It is currently the most important foreign operation of the French troops. Reflecting the strategic shift described above, Barkhane superseded not just Serval but also long-standing operations in Chad and Ivory Coast (Épervier and Licorne, respectively), as well as reorients the entire French military establishment in West Africa for the purpose of fighting of jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda. Barkhane’s primary targets initially were the terrorist groups active in Mauritania, Mali, and Niger and the networks that span the region and stretch into Algeria and Libya, it has clear that at this stage the French intervention can be labelled as counterinsurgency due to the fact that it aimed at reducing the destabilizing Islamist groups’ influence which constrains the flow of goods and resources in the region.

    Recently, France has included under Barkhane’s mandate its growing involvement in the conflict against Boko Haram, which has been spilling across borders in the Lake Chad region and has drawn in the staunch French allies Chad and Cameroon. Paris in early March 2015 announced that it would reinforce Barkhane, which initially had about 3,000 soldiers, with additional troops specifically for the purpose of countering Boko Haram.

    Since the beginning of Operation Barkhane, more than 400 terrorists have been put out of action or handed over to the authorities of the partner countries, 20 tons of weapons have been seized or destroyed, and 9 French soldiers have perished. Previously 10 died in Mali during Operation Serval, the ministry said.

    France has deployed nearly 4,000 troops, most of them in Mali, mainly in Gao (1,700 soldiers), with detachments in Kidal and Tessalit (northeast).

    The Barkhane force is under the command of Major General Xavier de Woillemont, who operates from the Joint Command Post in N’Djamena, the Chadian capital.

    It also includes 8 Mirage 2000 based in Niamey and N’Djamena, 17 combat and maneuver helicopters, 5 Reaper reconnaissance drones, 6-10 transport aircraft, 300 logistics vehicles and 300 armoured vehicles.

    Operation Barkhane also carried out 80 development projects and 34,000 consultations and free medical aids for the benefit of the populations, added the ministry.

    It is also a logistical challenge in a challenging environment for people and equipment, and generated 45,000 flight hours, 600,000 rations delivered and 30,000 tonnes of freight transported.

    It has 400 operations, mostly in partnership with the armed forces of the region, and 4,500 soldiers from the 5 partner countries have participated in 200 training actions.

    Of course, the French during Serval demonstrated their ability to operate effectively in the Sahel-Saharan zone and accomplish a lot with very little. They have a force structure geared for light and mobile operations, including light wheeled armoured vehicles well suited for the terrain (and relatively easy to transport by air) and an operating style that enables them rapidly to pull together and field autonomous.

    But France not only has too few helicopters but also has no heavy-lift helicopters, such as CH-47s, in its inventory. A leading French military analyst and commentator, Colonel Michel Goya, questioned the value over the long term of leading such a “minimal mission” when so much more would be required to “win” in the Sahel-Saharan zone.

    Colonel Michel Goya concluded his post by asking whether France, now that it finds itself on the front line in Africa, will “truly assume this burden” and give itself the means to succeed presumably by investing in its military and other capabilities so as to significantly boost the scale of its effort.
    Now, more than a year after Goya’s analysis, it seems that, for a variety of policy reasons, Paris is making the best of the means at Barkhane’s disposal with the objective of holding the line.

    Budgetary constraints and other strategic priorities such as Operation Sentinelle, the reinforced surveillance of the French territory following the Paris attacks of January 2015 make it unlikely that France can spare more forces to Mali, or even sustain Barkhane at the current level in the long term. Sentinelle effectively ties down nearly half of the troops available to France at any time, given its force generation cycle, and is placing such a strain on the French military that it might have to alter that cycle, with cascading effects on readiness and French operations elsewhere, including in the Sahel-Saharan zone.

    With regard to the FRES program, the initial 17-tons vehicle analysis was more or less coherent, but the change from a 17-tons vehicles to a 38-tons vehicles make simply impossible for an action such as Serval and limit the United Kingdom to large-scale, operations with ships or ground transport, against conventional threats. Strike brigades are a view of the mind.

  3. Frenchie

    Sorry for the double post, the whole article did not want to enter, I’m there in case of errors, or for clarification.

  4. Frenchie

    Hi ACC, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle weighs about 6 tons, it would be a good choice for a recce vehicle, but I don’t know if it will be used for that. If it is air droppable it could be the modernized version of the French VBL. Or a special forces vehicle. But it is very expensive I find.

  5. Frenchie

    Stuart Crawford, in the Leclerc tank regiments, the VBL are in reconnaissance two kilometers ahead of Leclerc. A distance at the same time sufficient to carry out efficiently the reconnaissance of the field and validate the Leclerc course (crossing of bridges, passage of inhabited zones …) as well as prepare the engagement of the tanks. A sufficient reconnaissance distance in case of contact with the enemy. With a range of 4 km, the 120 mm guns can support the VBL and the Leclerc will arrive quickly in zone. This formation in platoons “4 Leclerc + 4 VBL” is also adopted for the engagement of AMX10RC and Sagaie. Taken by an enemy fire, the engagement of the VBL in the defensive maneuvers allows the Leclerc to concentrate on the enemy. Once in contact, the VBL move from a reconnaissance mission to a mission preparing for the withdrawal. Clearly, while the Leclercs are in contact, the VBL determine the best positions of folds for the Leclerc and guide them on these positions. The Leclerc then have only to concentrate on the engagement of the enemy. A faster and safer withdrawal, which allows the Leclerc to fight the enemy longer.

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