The Armor Division 2030 (AD/2030) plan is a hammer, purpose-built to penetrate and exploit prepared enemy defenses on a narrow front. At the core of the AD/2030 is the realignment of enabling capability from the armored brigade combat teams (ABCTs) to the division and the transition to the division as the unit of action. As such, the division commander must have the capability necessary to weigh the division’s main effort with enough enabling force to win decisively in large-scale combat operations (LSCO). Examples of capability realignment include cavalry and cannon artillery from the ABCT to the division and engineer and protection brigades to enable division breaching operations and to consolidate gains in the rear area. All these new formations include organic sustainment capability.
Lastly, the division sustainment brigade (DSB) grows in personnel and capability, adding transportation, fuel, ammunition management, heavy maintenance, and mortuary affairs units to the existing division sustainment support battalion (DSSB) and special troops battalions (STBs). This paper analyzes the sustainment design of the AD/2030 based on observations and experiences of the 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) during Warfighter Exercise 22-04 and Joint Warfighter Assessment (JWA) 22 to help determine if it is fit for purpose.
Sustainment in 2030
Key to the sustainment brigade design is the resolution of three capability gaps identified in Training and Doctrine Command’s LSCO gap study: Gap #4, fuel distribution; Gap #10, sustainment mobility; and Gap #17, material management. The new design addresses these gaps by adding organizations traditionally echelon above brigade (EAB) to the sustainment brigade. The DSSB gains a modular ammunition company (MAC), inland cargo transfer company (ICTC), medium truck company (palletized load system (PLS)), and medium truck company (5k petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL)) while shifting the support maintenance company to the STB. The STB gains the support maintenance company, heavy maintenance surge teams, and a mortuary affairs platoon. It is critically important to note that these additions retain their EAB structure with no adjustments to the existing standard requirement codes occurring, except for the heavy maintenance surge teams, which is an entirely new design concept.
In terms of total sustainment capacity, the sustainment brigade grew exponentially as total pallet warehouse pallet positions grew by approximately 150% and bulk fuel distribution by more than 300%. The brigade also added critical tracked vehicle maintenance capability, organic mortuary affairs capable of processing 80 remains per day, and organic capability to store and issue ammunition. This is essential to ensuring the maintenance of tempo and lethality of the AD/2030.
The sustainment brigade is not the only sustainment force to change or grow in the AD/2030 design. Each ABCT lost two forward support companies (cavalry squadron and field artillery battalion). The division artillery (DIVARTY) gains a brigade support battalion (BSB), and the protection and engineer brigades include new BSBs. This analysis does not focus on the Army Health System. Still, it is worth noting that none of these BSBs features a brigade support medical company to provide Role II care organically. Additionally, the division cavalry (DIVCAV) receives an organic forward support troop (FST).
In aggregate, the AD/2030 gains three forward support companies (various standard requirement codes), three BSBs (distro and maintenance companies only), and seven functional companies/platoons in the sustainment brigade. This seems like a win for AD/2030 sustainment from a total capability standpoint. However, a deeper examination of how AD/2030 applies and builds this capability is necessary to answer the question.
Sustainment Brigade Performance
To sustain the AD/2030, the sustainment brigade must improve responsiveness, simplicity, and economy over current force structure. The AD/2030’s doctrinal frontage reduces from up to 60km to between 18 and 28km, but the depth of the close and rear areas remains 100km. The pace and tempo required to fight the AD/2030 successfully necessitate the sustainment brigade to echelon sustainment further forward earlier in the fight. Effectively, the sustainment brigade must push the division forward rather than be pulled along. Critical sustainment assets may be forward of adjacent division forward-line of troops. Keeping pace to reduce vulnerable lines of communication becomes essential in this scenario. The sustainment brigade must be agile enough to displace and move rapidly to enable the maneuver’s tempo and increase survivability. This requires the reduction and optimization of cumbersome sustainment nodes — maintenance collection points, ammunition storage points (ASPs), central receiving and issue points, and fuel system supply points (FSSPs) — to enable as much mobility as possible. The AD/2030 aims to accomplish this by adding mobile fuel storage capacity and modular distribution platforms that increase capacity without degrading mobility. To illustrate, the medium truck company (PLS) adds 120 flatrack (or 20-foot equivalent unit) positions to DSB lift capacity. The additional 360 flatracks enable the DSB to keep multi-class stocks configured to move quickly without heavy reliance on materiel handling equipment or load configuration.
AD/2030 Sustainment Brigade Performance
During JWA 22, the 3ID exercise force structure replicated the AD/2030 quite well. From the sustainment perspective, all additional capability was present and employed throughout the exercise. The exercise achieved the overall effect, despite some new sustainment capabilities being replicated using legacy standard requirement codes. For example, the DIVARTY BSB was an ABCT BSB minus the Charlie Medical Company. Exercise designers tailored legacy formations to closely mirror the AD/2030 design down to the specific system whenever possible. A key example of this was additional fuel distribution capability being added through Modular Fuel Systems instead of M969 tankers. This provided maximum mobility and flexibility to the gaining commander. Several after-action reviews captured the following observations from the eight-day exercise.
Increased capability does not equal increased effectiveness. Some of the added capabilities in the sustainment brigade did not improve and, in some instances, degraded the ability to sustain the division. Two clear examples of this are the ICTC and the MAC. Both standard requirement codes retain their EAB design and are not tailored to the AD/2030 mission set. The ICTC is designed to conduct terminal operations and trans-load International Organization for Standardization containers, which is not a mission set often encountered forward of the corps support area in a LSCO fight. It is less than 50% self-mobile and includes eight rough terrain container handlers (RTCHs) and 16 rough terrain forklifts. The ICTC encumbers the sustainment brigade and consumes critical heavy equipment transport (HET) assets when echeloning forward. During JWA 22, 3ID relinquished control of the ICTC to the supporting expeditionary sustainment command (ESC) before the division support area displaced forward — maintaining desired pace and tempo. Likewise, the MAC contains modular ammunition platoons capable of establishing an entire ASP and includes additional RTCHs, forklifts, and bulldozers. While the ability to establish and maintain an ASP is essential, there is no need to maintain multiple ASPs in the division area. Further, while there is excess ammunition handling and storage in the DSB, the DIVARTY BSB, the largest single consumer of ammunition in the AD/2030, lacks any organic capability.
The sustainment brigade lacks sufficient capability to operate effectively in a highly contested rear area. The additional distribution capability was added to the sustainment brigade in the form of EAB PLS and 5K POL truck companies. This increased overall distribution platforms by approximately 90% but did not include any organic convoy protection platforms (CPPs). The ratio of CPPs to distro platforms in the current DSB is about 1:7; this decreases to 1:13 in the AD/2030 sustainment brigade. The dedicated CPP shortfall is glaring, given the sustainment brigade’s requirement to operate further forward in a more contested rear area. One solution offered during JWA 22 was allocating military police (MP) assets from the patrol base. This proved insufficient as demand for MPs forced a transition to area-based route security early in the fight.
HET shortfall will grind division to a halt. The added capability in the sustainment brigade did not include any additional HET systems. The composite truck company-heavy (CTC-H) HET platoon remains the division’s only organic source of support. During JWA 22, 3ID incurred more than 350 tracked battle losses. The CTC-H’s 18 HETs would have taken eight or more days to retrograde the losses from forward maintenance control points. The same HETs were required to distribute Class VII and support the displacement of the division sustainment area. Without significant and continuous support from the ESC, massively encumbered ABCTs would not have maintained tempo through the enemy disruption zone. It is also important to note that as the Army fields the next generation HET/medium equipment transport (MET) systems, the planned allocation will provide only six HET systems to the CTC-H capable of hauling battle-damaged M1 Tank or M88 recovery vehicle variants.
Sustainment must enable the DIVCAV. The currently proposed design of the FST organic to the DIVCAV is insufficient. The traditional FST designed around functional platoons (fuel/water, distro, supply, etc.) cannot effectively support multiple cavalry troops spread across the division front, far forward of the support area. During JWA 22, the DIVCAV moved rapidly through the enemy’s disruption zone and required significant augmentation from the sustainment brigade to extend endurance while ABCTs cleared obstacles and bypassed enemy formations. It was more than four days before distribution operations from the sustainment brigade to the DIVCAV were feasible.
Adding BSBs to enabling brigades paid huge dividends. The addition of capable BSBs in the DIVARTY, engineer, and protection brigades had a marked impact on the DSB’s capability to extend the AD/2030 operational reach and endurance at decisive points throughout JWA 22. Without the requirement to allocate finite capability to sustain enablers, the DSB was better postured to weigh the main effort with additional fuel and multi-class distribution during the wet-gap crossing. Additionally, the enabling brigades were not tethered to the division support area by sustainment requirements and were able to echelon forward and impact the fight ahead of what was feasible in previous exercises.
Future of Sustainment Brigades
JWA 22 highlighted both areas that the AD/2030 sustainment brigade excelled over the legacy DSB and where gaps and seams still exist or, in some cases, were created by the AD/2030 design. Most of the requisite capability that divisions have lacked since the transition to modular sustainment brigades is now present. Massive shortfalls in fuel distribution and lift capacity were adequately addressed. The most glaring shortfall is not what was added, but in the lack of attention to how it was added. For the AD/2030 sustainment brigade to be truly fit for purpose, it cannot continue to evolve as a patchwork of legacy DSB and EAB units; it must be rethought and redesigned without the constraints of existing sustainment standard requirement codes. A comprehensive redesign may include some of the following examples:
- Purpose-built distribution. Realign the ICTC, CTC, and PLS companies into light (CPP/troop transportation), medium (load handling system/PLS), and heavy (MET/HET) truck companies. The heavy truck company adds two additional MET/HET platoons to the division in exchange for the material handling capability in the current ICTC. The light truck company adds additional troop transportation and CPP platoons to address current shortfalls.
- Node focused versus distribution focused. The AD/2030 designs should aggregate more static capabilities (supply support activity platoon, ASP platoon, FSSPs) into a composite company that is purpose-built. This allows the division to set and operate nodes in the rear area, instead of current designs that require company commanders to manage tactical distribution and supply node operations simultaneously.
- Field lighter, more agile capability. Invest in fielding modern sustainment capability to match the evolution of modernized combat formations. Expand the family of systems designed to be carried/employed on flat racks (akin to the modular fuel system or common authorized stockage list containers in the BSB) to increase the mobility of the sustainment brigade.
- Completely rethink DIVCAV sustainment. To enable the DIVCAV to operate effectively across the entire division front, the FST design must move from functional to multi-functional platoon structure. Modular multi-functional sustainment platoons aligned to each cavalry troop with a robust battalion support platoon serving as the second level of sustainment would meet the requirement. Additionally, the breadth and complexity of the DIVCAV FST mission (think mini BSB) warrants an O-4 key developmental command billet to maximize effectiveness.
The AD/2030 sustainment design represents a step, not a full leap forward. It provides adequate increases to fuel and multi-class distribution, ammunition handling, and mortuary affairs capability to the AD/2030 commander, but stops short of being the refined, purpose-built tool it should be. Damaging shortfalls still exist in HET capability, convoy protection, troop transport capacity, and the overall organization of capability within the DSB. To achieve the goal, designers must be free to rethink divisional sustainment force structure at the company and platoon level. The foundation has been laid. However, to complete a lasting structure, the Army must be willing to discard the building blocks of the modular era for those tailored to the new environment and mission. Empowering designers to make impactful changes to both the what and how of future sustainment capability will yield an AD/2030 DSB that is fit for purpose.
Maj. Nathaniel McDermott currently serves as the battalion executive officer for the 3rd Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division and previously served as the division transportation officer for the 3rd Infantry Division. He holds a Masters of Operational Studies from the Army Command and General Staff College and a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design from Virginia Tech. He is a graduate of the Command and General Staff Officer Course at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
This article was published in the Fall 22 issue of Army Sustainment.