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Move, Shoot, Communicate – Not in 7 CSSB, Not With Land 121 (Yet)

LAND 121 (L121) is a multi-phased program that replaced the legacy B-vehicle fleet. This project delivered its entitlement of L121 to the 7th Combat Service Support Battalion (7 CSSB) in February 2017. The introduction into service of L121 provided many opportunities for 7 CSSB through new capabilities; however, 7 CSSB still has significant challenges that it needs to overcome with L121 before it can effectively employ the ‘move, shoot and communicate ‘theory.

The current understanding is that L121 was introduced to provide a hardened logistical asset that is able to protect and defend itself, reducing the liability on the arms corps for CSS protection. 7 CSSB did not fully implement the use of L121 in 2017. However, it did fully deploy with the fleet on both Exercise Battlegroup Warhorse and Hamel 2018. Throughout these exercises it was identified that 7 CSSB still has a considerable training gap to bridge prior to being able to effectively utilise the L121 capability.

In this article, I will define the meaning of  ‘move, shoot and communicate’ and the challenges 7 CSSB face as they attempt to achieve it. I will outline the difficulties 7 CSSB must overcome with delays in communication technology, training for soldiers and lack of standard operating procedures (SOPs) & doctrine and I will provide recommendations for how personnel employing L121 can be enhanced enough to be effectively utilised in the conventional tactical environment. The focus of this article will be at the troop-squadron level.

The aim of this article is to outline why 7 CSSB cannot currently ‘move, shoot and communicate’ with L121 and provide recommendations on rectifying these faults.

Move, Shoot and Communicate

Move is considered the ability to manoeuvre and deliver a commodity throughout the battle space, traversing difficult terrain and being able to effectively move from point A to point B.

During Exercise Hamel 2018, 7 CSSB had significantly reduced ability to manoeuvre throughout the battle space compared to the legacy fleet due to the weight and size of vehicles, particularly with the HX77’s vulnerability to terrain and climatic conditions. To add to the challenges, the lack of driver experience also hindered the manoeuvrability and employability of the fleet.

To be able to manoeuvre L121 variants in the tactical environment, drivers need to be able to quickly conduct terrain appreciation whilst on the move. This can be become difficult when drivers have varying training/experience and this challenge can be multiplied when adverse weather conditions are applied to the situation.

Shoot is considered the ability to engage the enemy utilising the platforms main mounted weapon systems.

L121 does not afford the ability to decisively engage targets with precision and accuracy due to the unstable weapon platform. To date, L121 operators within 7 CSSB have not been assessed engaging targets from L121 platforms individually or as a section. This highlights a weakness in supporting the ‘shoot’ theory. Assessment at the individual, crew and section level must be conducted in order to be current and in-line with the Royal Australian Armoured Corp (RAAC) gunnery tables. This was not supported or assessed during the 7th Combat Brigade’s ‘Road to Ready’.

Ex Hamel 2018 did not afford L121 operators from 7 CSSB opportunities to engage the enemy. However, if 7 CSSB had encountered frequent enemy engagements, the lack of appropriate weapon mounting equipment (swing mounts) would have had a significant negative impact on the accuracy and precision of firing. In order to effectively engage the enemy from a mobile L121 variant you need to have a stable firing platform. Currently the swing mounts do not provide this and operators have extreme difficulty firing accurately on the move due to the mount’s volatility.

Communicate is considered the ability to maintain commentary throughout the battle space through a digital information network between all assets, including higher headquarters, from varying distances without fault.

During Ex Hamel 18, 7 CSSB designed and implemented a local modification in order to secure communications within the L121 variants. This system was set up utilising the land rover battle whip, 20 watt dismount amplifier and an unsecured Harris 152 radio. This communications suite afforded 7 CSSB communications reach, enabling personnel to transmit and receive orders on the move. Although 7 CSSB vehicles have begun modification to fit the communications suite, this interim solution appears to be relatively permanent.

Training gap

Currently, 7 CSSB has a shortfall in training on the L121 fleets. Whilst drivers are qualified to operate the platform, there is a significant gap between being able to operate in a barracks environment, compared to being able to effectively operate in a tactical environment. If the training gap is to be solved then greater emphasis needs to be placed on mounted minor tactics and mounted gunnery. This training can be conducted at the non commissioned officer (NCO) level, but needs to be reinforced by having all employment category number (ECN)274 NCO qualified as crew commanders. Currently 7 CSSB relies on the experience of members who have deployed overseas and/or have had time in Bushmasters to pass on their knowledge of operating within a tactical environment.

Initial employment training (IET). IET for ECN 274 is currently lacking the ability to provide a tactical skill-set for soldiers of the L121 fleet. Qualified IET soldiers are expected to operate the L121 in a tactical environment, which includes; manoeuvring, engaging the primary mounted weapon systems, and effectively using the communication systems.

Doctrine and standard operating procedures (SOP)

Implementation of SOP and doctrine. To date there is no specific tactical SOP or doctrine developed for the use of L121. Currently 7 CSSB utilise mounted minor tactics SOP developed for the use of armoured vehicles. The development of new doctrine for L121 is required to standardise the employment of these vehicles in a tactical setting. Noting the size and weight of the L121 vehicles, it cannot be expected that armoured SOP can be utilised effectively.

The lengthy process for developing doctrine will be a challenge for 7 CSSB.  Lack of L121 doctrine means that unit SOP will differ and there may be a significant difference in the operating procedures of the new L121 vehicles, thus causing further confusion when doctrine is finally developed and released.

Conclusion

The L121 fleet offers Army a range of capabilities beyond that of the legacy fleet. In order to employ these capabilities to best advantage, lateral and creative thinking needs to be employed in order to develop robust SOP that align across all combat brigades. The ground truth is that 7 CSSB are not supported by the digital communication package, and do not have the gunnery and tactical knowledge, to meet the Move, Shoot, Communicate theory from a Royal Australian Corps of Transport’s (RACTs) perspective.

Recommendations

It is recommended that:

  1. Units target qualification pathways to meet requirements such as ‘assessed gunnery tables’ in support of the shoot theory,
  2. The fleet is fitted for a digital communications suite – an interim solution should be agreed upon as a way to standardise communications within the fleet until the digital fit catches up,
  3. A combined RACT working group from the three combat brigades form an initial draft of the L121 Mounted Minor Tactics SOP, lead by the 7th Combat Brigade,
  4. The Army School of Transport (AST) assess and moderate SOP effectiveness across the combat brigades,
  5. Future SOP be incorporated into IET until doctrine and AST develop mounted minor tactics for ECN 274 IET courses, and
  6. Combat brigades agree to exercise logistic effects on the ‘Road to Ready’.

About the author: Grace Amey is in her fifth year of service within the Royal Australian Corps of Transport and is currently a Corporal employed as a Transport Section Commander within the 5th Transport Squadron of the 7th Combat Service Support Battalion. She would like to thank Katelyn Thorne for her assistance in preparing this article.

9 thoughts on “Move, Shoot, Communicate – Not in 7 CSSB, Not With Land 121 (Yet)

  1. It is important to understand that logistics BOS are on the battlefield to deliver a CSS effect, not to become RAAC/RAInf effects.
    CSS elements need to survive on the battlefield, not become close combatants. Our CSS assets are low population and in high demand, exposing them to more risk by pretending we are close combatants is dangerous.
    Be brilliant at basics – maintenance, distribution and supply. We have experts to do the fighting. As long as we can help, not hinder, our RASO Battlegroups we are doing our ‘bit’.

    1. It is not the RASO BG’s job to provide intimate defence of CSS, it is their job to conduct deliberate operations to secure the rear area.

      Local and self defence is, and has always been, a doctrinal responsibility of CSS. Much of what the RASO BG exists to do sets the conditions for CSS to be able to defend itself, but in a COE and FOE construct, the battlespace is simple too disaggregated for any element to be responsible for the defence of CSS other than CSS.

      L121 is our opportunity to begin taking that responsibility more seriously, rather than to hope for babysitters.

    2. I agree. The idea is that logistics assets (scarce as they are) are for supply and distribution. Not for owning and dominating battle space. The provision of a platform doesn’t change that. We might be able to be safer, operate in a more lethal environment but the protection is aimed at survibabilty not offensive ops.

    3. A swing mount is not fitted to the vehicles to enable effective fire on the move – to achieve that a stabilised weapon system is required.
      Weapon mounts are fitted to enable intimate defence, they do not provide an effective means of engaging the enemy while moving.
      Operators need to understand the operational concept of their platforms in order to employ them effectively.

  2. A really interesting insight into the challenges faced by 7CSSB. The move, shoot , communicate is but one paradigm through which to look at capability. I would observe that shoot in this context is seen as the ability to apply direct fire to achieve your mission and enable manoeuvre relative to the enemy. For CSS elements, it’s not as critical as a combat arm. Therefore the shooting standard has to match the role.

    1. I agree with you, but what is missing right now is such a standard, which I think is what CPL Amey is talking about. For any vehicle which RAAC has been responsible, you can find the quantifiable yearly individual gunnery standards for an operator and associated collective training standards.

      No strong equivalent exists for RACT. No quantified gunnery standard exists at any level of the collective or individual training continuum beyond the ECN274 trade requirement to “Protect a convoy” (from what, using what, to what standard, under what conditions, evidenced by what how frequently?).

      Going to the other side of the fence, dismounted skill at arms requirements are fairly well defined and articulated with clear standards and intervals for demonstration of the standards for almost any role and any weapon.

      I think the problen was abstractly summarised quite well by a former CO Army School of Transport last year on the Land Power Forum. Whenever anyone mentions mounted combat skills for loggies, we jump to the conclusion that we’re gearing up to turn out latter day Michael Wittmans, when that’s absolutely never the case.

      https://www.army.gov.au/our-future/blog/logistics/all-corps-mounted-combatant-skills-the-search-for-the-missing-word

  3. Brilliant! Thanks for putting these thoughts on paper CPL Amey. We are learning as we go with Land 121 but feedback like this is so valuable to inform that journey. We have some substantial reviews going on into our Protected Mobility Driver Training System and our mounted and dismounted shooting doctrine / practices. Your article will be required reading for them!

  4. Well said and agreed in that CSS elements need to increase their ability to provide integral self defence (assuming you are not implying that they should become a manoeuvre unit).

    The tactics (SOP) already exist in MMT (and have done for years). The soon to be released re-write will see it become more platform agnostic and likely more easily adopted by CSS elements. Additionally, the metrics for the requisite gunnery techniques and training also already exists (7-3-2). It would have to be modified slightly for purpose however would give a good starting point.

    I would suggest involving SME from Army’s current mounted tactics school (SOARMD). There are experts in both manoeuvre, gunnery and communications resident there who will be able to assist (and would be happy to).

    Good job in getting your opinion and thoughts out there!

  5. No need to re-invent the wheel here. Mounted minor tactics, in particular formations and method of movement skills are platform agnostic. While the current doctrine has an armour focus the basic skills, knowledge, attitude and behaviours of MMT are applicable and need to be filitered into the all corps enviroment in the same way that the Basic Combat Communications and combat shooting skill sets are. The ablity to move, shoot and communicate is a foundation skill set for us all. Cpl Amey gets it, how long before the rest of the Army does.

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