One of ComNavOps recurring themes is that we are making a mistake by focusing on information at the expense of firepower.
Now, before you start typing out an ignorant reply, go back and reread that sentence. I’ll wait … … …
Okay, Did you take note that I DID NOT say that we shouldn’t pursue information systems? What did I say? I said that we are focusing on information AT THE EXPENSE OF FIREPOWER.
Information is vital. Recon, recon, recon, right? But, when we begin dropping firepower to pay for information we’re making a huge mistake. That path will lead us to having perfect knowledge of the enemy who is raining heavy artillery on us as we die, unable to muster the firepower to fight back.
The Marines have cut tanks and artillery and are continuing to reduce firepower to pay for UAVs, 3D printing, information specialists embedded in companies and squads, etc. One of the latest reductions is the elimination of the 120 mm towed mortar (Expeditionary Fire Support System) (1). The towed mortar was a lightweight system that provided significant firepower at low organizational levels.
“The EFSS, fielded in the early 2000s, was designed to be extremely portable, small enough to be towed by an all-terrain vehicle that fits easily inside anMV-22 Osprey.
Made by General Dynamics, the full system weighs roughly 18 pounds and can fire high-explosive, smoke and illumination rounds.” (1)
All the information in the world is of no use if you haven’t got the firepower to take advantage of it. A corollary to that is that firepower can make up for a LOT of information shortages. For example, you don’t need to know what’s waiting for you over that next hill if you can simply conduct an area bombardment and kill whatever might be there.
|120 mm Mortar|
During combat, information is a very difficult thing to master and use. Recall the recent destroyer collisions and groundings despite the ships having many information sources such as radars, satellites, transponders, electro-optical sensors, and old fashioned lookouts – and yet the collisions and groundings still occurred – during peacetime! Or, recall the
shootdown – a massively capable
Aegis system rendered useless because the operators couldn’t properly interpret
the data in the adrenaline rush of combat. Vincennes
In contrast, firepower is simple, effective, and easy to master and use. Firepower is an example of the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) philosophy while information is the epitome of complexity and failure-prone systems. Which do you want to depend on in war?
A mortar is an outstanding example of a dirt-simple weapon system that is incredibly cheap and provides firepower all out of proportion to its size. It’s exactly the kind of KISS weapon system we should be acquiring and yet we’re dropping it. When we face the Chinese with our tiny, squad level UAVs and 3D printing while they’re raining heavy artillery down on us, we’ll quickly regret the decisions we’re making today.
The people making these decisions have clearly never engaged in peer combat against a foe who emphasizes great big gobs of heaping, steaming firepower. To be fair, that kind of combat hasn’t occurred within their lifetime so they couldn’t have faced it. However, they’re supposed to have studied warfare and learned the lessons from those who have faced it – and they’ve failed to learn the lessons.
(1)Military.com website, “Marine Corps Ditches Towed Mortar System in Push to Fund Modernization”, Hope Hodge Seck,