The success of our future force will be measured in part by its ability to remain forward and mobile in the face of contested operating spaces; to be able to move seamlessly between contact and blunt activities — persistent and combat credible to deter and win. While this capability is relevant across multiple scenarios, it assumes a particular sense of urgency in an era of precision-strike missiles, sensing technology, counter reconnaissance capabilities, and the proliferation of unmanned systems.
Distributed operations see small, dispersed land and sea detachments threaten the ability of adversary forces to concentrate from within their anti-access/area denial umbrella. Forces conducting DO deny freedom of movement along key sea and air lines of communication. Distributed forces change the adversary’s cost calculus and buy time for flexible deterrence options and assembling a joint task force.
Photo by Cpl. Kallahan Morris
A U.S. Marine with Marine Air Control Squadron 4 establishes communications during exercise Hagåtña Fury 21 on Ukibaru, Japan, Feb 18, 2021. The exercise demonstrated that Marines are capable of seizing, defending, and providing expeditionary sustainment for key maritime terrain in support of the III Marine Expeditionary Force. 3/8 is attached to 3d Marine Division as a part of the unit deployment program.
We distribute for five reasons:
• We disperse to better accomplish the mission against a distant or distributed adversary.
• We disperse to improve maneuver options in order to gain a positional advantage to assault, or engage more effectively with direct or indirect fires.
• We disperse to reduce the effects of enemy fires.
• We disperse to impose costs and induce uncertainty.
• We disperse to reduce our signature to avoid detection. In a precision strike regime, sensing first and shooting first are a tremendous advantage.
Traditionally, the infantry company has been the lowest echelon capable of coordinating the full-range of combined arms, but miniaturization of electronics and increased processing power enables us to push combined arms to the squad. Smaller combined-arms-capable units allow us to be more distributed.