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.
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.
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.
It is recommended that:
- Units target qualification pathways to meet requirements such as ‘assessed gunnery tables’ in support of the shoot theory,
- 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,
- 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,
- The Army School of Transport (AST) assess and moderate SOP effectiveness across the combat brigades,
- Future SOP be incorporated into IET until doctrine and AST develop mounted minor tactics for ECN 274 IET courses, and
- 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.