The National Training Center at Fort Irwin, as the "Crown Jewel" of the Army, has long been at the cutting edge of preparing Brigade Combat Teams for combat or contingency operations around the world.
Now that our Army and our nation has endured 15 long years of combat operations and is adjusting to rapidly changing threats, the NTC has the responsibility to keep pace with each dynamic operating environment our BCTs may encounter. The 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment is the driving force of that endeavor.
The world's premiere opposition force continues to be the unsolvable puzzle within the NTC. The Blackhorse Regiment has implemented a multitude of enablers to replicate a variety of environments that will better prepare the rotational training unit for any operation to which it is deployed.
The 11th ACR is organized into the 80th Division Tactical Group during rotations at the NTC, and within this organization is an enabler network that provides various actions that work in concert with conventional forces to enhance the complexity that the RTU faces.
In January 2016, the Regiment received its first Group 3 (Tactical) Unmanned Aerial System, the Outlaw G2E, replicating a surrogate UAS threat in the same category as the U.S. Army's RQ-7B Shadow. The Outlaw UAS has significantly improved the Regiment's intelligence collection capability, often pinpointing the locations of enemy High Payoff Targets with laser accuracy. This capability, combined with the Regiment's indirect fire assets, has consistently led to the destruction of these HPTs prior to the start of a major battle, rendering them useless to the RTU during the fight.
This example of near-peer capabilities has greatly enriched the experience of the RTU during rotations as it requires their staff to conduct mission analysis to a greater level than ever before.
The Blackhorse Regiment has also implemented additional hybrid threats within the organization, such as Task Force Skaven, the Improvised Explosive Device cell, and TF Citizen, which populates city centers with unaligned inhabitants to enhance the overall experience during a rotation. Actions that the Rotational Training Unit, or BCT conducting the rotation, take or do not take, impact the scenario through the participation of Blackhorse Troopers with specific identities built into the scenario.
These enablers allow the Division Tactical Group (DTG), i.e. the Regiment, to execute their mission of delivering hybrid threat operations with the human dimension added to the operational environment. This crucible training experience assists in maximizing the RTUs operational readiness.
Another angle of the operating environment that has evolved over the course of the past few years, is the employment of cyber-electromagnetic activity (CEMA). While the DTG has the capabilities of engaging the enemy with multiple lethal effects, there are many opportunities to strike a foe utilizing CEMA, targeting their mission command, communications systems, and decision-making abilities before a round is ever fired.
To better prepare our Army for inevitable clashes in this emergent domain, the 11th ACR partnered with external CEMA units for Rotation 16-08, pitting two brigade-sized elements against each other with the intent to operationalize CEMA at the tactical edge. These elements were tasked to detect, degrade, and disrupt coalition forces in order to prevent freedom of maneuver in the battlespace. Their effects ranged from increasing guerilla combatants on the battlefield through aggressive recruitment campaigns to delaying coalition aviation support by ways of "weaponized crowds" swarming coalition aviation tactical assembly areas.
As this enabler continues to be developed, despite noted deficiencies, leaders at all levels have recognized the importance and potential of these effects and attempted to integrate them into maneuver plans.
It is training initiatives such as this that aid the Army in maintaining readiness for the realities of a modern battlefield and in preparing for the emergent effects of the future.