Enhanced Army Airborne Forces

Enhanced Army Airborne Forces: A New Joint Operational Capability

John Gordon
Agnes Gereben Schaefer
David A. Shlapak
Caroline Baxter
Scott Boston
Michael McGee
Todd Nichols
Elizabeth Tencza
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 132
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  • Book Info
    Enhanced Army Airborne Forces
    Book Description:

    A RAND research team examined options to increase the mobility, protection, and firepower of Army airborne forces, given likely future missions and threats, and identified a concept for enhancing today’s forces by adding a light armored infantry capability. This report examines the numbers and types of vehicles that would be needed to create an airborne light armored force that could be airdropped or air-landed from Air Force transport planes.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-9002-7
    Subjects: Technology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  4. Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xiii-xxii)

    This project focuses on the pivotal role that airborne forces could play in key missions in the future—particularly against hybrid threats and in anti-access environments. Army airborne forces are unique in their ability to quickly deploy worldwide from the continental United States via transport aircraft, including to objectives that may be deep inland and generally beyond the reach of maritime forces operating in littoral regions. However, the threats facing Army airborne forces today (and the Air Force transport planes that deploy and sustain them) are serious and could become more severe in the future, depending on the opponent. For...

  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxv-xxvi)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    As the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan come to an end, a new strategic vision for the Army of the future has begun to take shape. This view was made explicit in February 2011 by then–Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates in a speech at the United States Military Academy:

    Looking ahead, though, in the competition for tight defense dollars within and between the services, the Army also must confront the reality that the most plausible, high-end scenarios for the U.S. military are primarily naval and air engagements—whether in Asia, the Persian Gulf, or elsewhere. The strategic rationale...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Overview of the Current Airborne Force
    (pp. 7-14)

    Since the creation of dedicated division-sized formations for airborne assaults in World War II (WWII), the Army has maintained the capability to conduct large airborne operations. Airborne units, and the 82nd Airborne Division in particular, have been used numerous times from the closing days of the Cold War to the mid-2000s. Some of the key operations were as follows:

    Operation Just Cause, 1989. The invasion of Panama in December 1989 included several airborne insertions of both special and general-purpose forces. The 82nd Airborne Division’s Division Ready Brigade (DRB) carried out combat drops in Panama and transitioned into offensive air assault...

  11. CHAPTER THREE Threats to Todayʹs Airborne Forces
    (pp. 15-30)

    Historically, airborne operations have had a fairly high degree of risk, particularly if the operation takes place against a reasonably competent opponent. Most large-scale airborne operations in WWII resulted in high numbers of casualties. For example, during D-Day airborne operations on June 6, 1944, the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions parachuted or landed by glider a total of roughly 13,000 personnel; it was later calculated that the 82nd suffered 1,259 casualties (killed, wounded, or missing) and that the 101st suffered an additional 1,240 during the first 24 hours of the operation, a combined casualty rate of 19 percent.¹ Three months...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR A Proposed Airborne Light Armored Infantry Force
    (pp. 31-44)

    To mitigate many of the threats described in Chapter Three, the concept developed by the RAND research team focuses on introducing light armored vehicles into today’s airborne force. Organic light armor has been lacking in Army airborne units since the retirement of the Sheridan.

    The concept described here involves more than just reintroducing light tanks (or an equivalent vehicle) into the airborne force. Even when the Sheridans were present in the 82nd Airborne Division, the majority of the division still maneuvered at the pace of a walking infantryman. Today, with the need to seize lodgments outside the range of most...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Airlift Issues and Requirements
    (pp. 45-56)

    Any new organizational option for U.S. Army airborne forces has to consider the size and composition of the Air Force airlift fleet. This is particularly important for near-term changes to Army airborne forces, since changes to the airlift fleet take place slowly, over time, due to the limited number of new aircraft that can be purchased each year.

    Today the Air Force operates three primary transport aircraft, the C-130, C-17, and C-5. The first two aircraft are capable of parachute delivery of troops and equipment, in addition to air-landing them at airports. The C-5 is currently not capable of parachute...

  14. CHAPTER SIX Potential Uses for Airborne Light Armored Infantry Forces
    (pp. 57-72)

    The proposed airborne light armored infantry force enjoys several advantages over traditional airborne infantry in three domains: It has substantially improved tactical mobility, it has improved lethality against a range of targets, and it is more survivable against a number of threats. These advantages—which come at the cost of additional airlift—could make the force well suited for employment in a range of operational contexts.

    In this chapter, we discuss how an airborne light armored infantry formation might be employed in seven different vignettes and one new role. These represent possible circumstances in which the force might be used...

  15. CHAPTER SEVEN Issues Related to the Implementation of the New Concept
    (pp. 73-78)

    As the vignettes in Chapter Six illustrate, the potential advantages of this new concept include enhanced mobility, lethality, and survivability. However, these enhancements would not come without costs and trade-offs. In this chapter, we lay out some of the issues related to the implementation of this concept, including potential barriers the Army would need to overcome to implement it, the implications this concept would have on the joint force, and organizational options for implementation.

    Funding issues will likely be one of the main barriers to implementing this new concept, especially as defense budgets shrink. However, LAV-II and the Stryker are...

  16. CHAPTER EIGHT Conclusions and Recommendations
    (pp. 79-82)

    This report represents the initial step in a multiyear RAND effort to help the Army identify options to enhance its airborne forces, with emphasis on the near term. The research presented in this document highlighted real or perceived weaknesses or vulnerabilities in today’s airborne forces, threat trends that are influencing how and under what conditions airborne forces can be used, and possible options for the near future.

    A major conclusion of this initial step in the research has been that LAV-II–class vehicles appear to provide an attractive option for Army airborne forces, assuming that a new capability is desired...

  17. APPENDIX A LAV-II Family of Vehicles
    (pp. 83-88)
  18. APPENDIX B Stryker- and LAV-Based Airborne Light Armored Infantry Brigade TOEs
    (pp. 89-96)
  19. APPENDIX C C-5, C-17, and C-130 Capabilities
    (pp. 97-98)
  20. APPENDIX D Dimensions, Weight, Number of Vehicles for C-17 Airdrop
    (pp. 99-102)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 103-106)