A Critique of the HUNTER WARRIOR ConceptPosted on August 14,2019
Article Date Jun 01, 1998
by Maj John F. Schmitt, USMCR
Now that the Warfighting Laboratory has completed its evaluation of the HUNTER WARRIOR experiment, it is time for the Marine Corps to consider the institutional implications of the results. The larger institution, not the Lab, must ultimately determine what effects, if any, those results should have on doctrine, organization, training, education, equipping, and so on-just as the Marine Corps as an institution had to come to grips with the development of amphibious doctrine in the 1930s and the adoption of maneuver warfare in the 1980s. This can be accomplished only through a serious and open discussion of the merits of the experiment. This has not happened. The Lab has done its part by positing the HUNTER WARRIOR thesis What has not followed, but should, is a thorough and critical conversation that can eventually lead to an informed conclusion.
With this in mind, I offer the following critique: I have serious reservations about the HUNTER WARRIOR concept, which I think is flawed as an operating concept for Marine airground task forces (MAGTFs). First, it is not a true operating concept at all but a technical concept mistakenly advanced as an operating concept. (I will explain this important distinction later.) Second, it is based on assumptions that I believe are inconsistent with the true nature of warfare and with the emerging character of most future warfare. Third, it is largely incompatible with the Marine Corps’ own existing doctrine. Finally, HUNTER WARRIOR is susceptible to several simple yet potentially effective tactical or operational countermeasures.
Let me make clear that this critique applies to the overall concept for the employment of the MAGTF during the experiment rather than to the specific techniques or technologies tested within the framework of that concept. Some of the techniques and technologies exercised in HUNTER WARRIOR may very well become valuable additions to our warfighting capability. My argument is with the broader operating concept that underlies the exercise. I have no problem with using technology to improve the ability of forward observers or small-unit leaders to provide accurate, effective, and timely fire support. My problem is in presenting this relatively minor technical advancement as an innovative MAGTF operating concept.
Let me also make perfectly clear that I am not criticizing the efforts of those involved in the HUNTER WARRIOR experiment; I am criticizing the HUNTER WARRIOR concept. The issue here is military theory. Some have branded theoretical discussions about practical experiments, especially where doctrinal issues are involved, as irrelevant and “old religion.” Debates over theory are anything but irrelevant. An understanding of the theory of war is an essential requirement in the profession of arms in general and in the development of new warfighting methods in particular. Getting the concepts right is the essential first step in effective combat development. If we are unwilling to look carefully and critically at theoretical issues, we risk adopting ill-considered concepts.
The HUNTER WARRIOR concept was known as Green Dragon when it was first proposed as an operating concept. That name was changed to Sea Dragon to provide the concept a naval flavor, but then the name Sea Dragon was removed from the specific concept and reapplied to the entire experimental process. Since this transition, the original concept has had no official title but has clearly and explicitly remained the theoretical basis for the HUNTER WARRIOR experiment.
Based on the assumption that anything that moves or masses on the battlefield can be targeted and anything that can be targeted can be destroyed by precise, long-range fires, the HUNTER WARRIOR concept involves blanketing the battlefield with dispersed rifle squads (supplemented with other ground and aerial observers and sensors) with the object of being able to spot and direct fires against any enemy force. These enemy forces are not engaged in actual combat but are defeated entirely by supporting arms from sea-based platforms, preferably at standoff ranges. The idea is to destroy the enemy using longrange, precision fires while denying the enemy the chance to damage us by avoiding the tactical formations that would provide the enemy with lucrative targets. HUNTER WARRIOR is essentially warfare-by-forward-observer. The dispersed squads are not combat formations but exist only to provide information to the MAGTF combat operations center. They rely on concealment for their protection.
These dispersed squads, variously called long-range contact patrols (LRCPs) or HUNTER WARRIOR teams, are under the direct control of the MAGTF. Larger organization do not exist as tactical units. The squads are assigned static observation posts (OPs) and specific named areas of interest (NAIs) by the MAGTF. The squad’s sole mission is to watch its assigned NAI and generate two digitized reports any time an enemy unit enters the NAI. The first is a call for fire that enters firing data into the MAGTF’s automated fire direction system. The second is a SALUTE* report, that updates the automated database that drives the situation display in the MAGTF combat operations center. Both reports are preformatted, requiring the squad leader only to enter the appropriate numerical or textual data into the format (although squad leaders also have the ability to transmit voice and free-text digital messages.) At this point, the squad’s role is essentially finished.
The MAGTF does the rest, deciding whether, when, and how to engage the targets with supporting arms, which are no longer “supporting” but are now the arm of decision. These decisions are all made in the engagement coordination cell *size, activity, location, unit, time, and equipment. (ECC) of the MAGTF’s combat operations center. The squad leader has no input into when, how, or even if to engage the target. The squad leader has no latitude to exercise tactical initiative. He is not expected to demonstrate much in the way of tactical judgment. His tactical decisions are limited to getting into position and local security at the OP. He has little need to understand any larger concept of operations or the commander’s intent. The squad leader needs only to watch his assigned NAI and generate the prescribed reports. The rifle squad might as well be another inanimate sensor; it has about the same latitude for tactical action. The MAGTF’s greatest concern throughout the exercise was the safety of the deployed HUNTER WARRIOR teams. The logical extension of the concept would be eventually to replace the teams with automated sensors which, unlike people, do not need to be fed or rescued if compromised.
The Genesis of the Concept
There is nothing cutting-edge about the HUNTER WARRIOR concept. The technology may be cutting-edge, but the operating concept is a direct descendant of the failed World War I French doctrine often referred to as “methodical battle.” Robert A. Doughty, a leading authority on the development of French military doctrine between the World Wars, wrote in The Breaking Point (p. 27):
In formulating its doctrine, the French Army placed the greatest emphasis on the requirements of firepower. From their perspective, advances in weaponry after 1918 had increased the importance of firepower and made the possibility of maneuver less likely. Both the 1921 and the 1936 field service regulations stressed the importance of firepower. In its description of firepower as “the preponderant factor of combat,” the 1936 field service regulations repeated another sentence that had appeared in the 1921 edition: `The attack is the fire that advances, the defense is the fire that halts [the enemy].’
Doughty could just as easily be describing the philosophy that underlies the HUNTER WARRIOR concept. HUNTER WARRIOR appears to assume a return to the overwhelming dominance of fires in war-a sort of Second Age of Firepower recalling the positional warfare of World War I.
HUNTER WARRIOR is one of a growing number of concepts that fall under the general heading of “distance warfare.” Driven by advances in weapons technology, these concepts envision remote-control warfare conducted with pushbutton precision from a safe distance by technicians. Driven by a desire to minimize friendly casualties by minimizing exposure to the enemy, the ultimate object is to make war without putting ourselves in harm’s way. The desire is understandable, but it will never happen. War being a clash of wills, human ingenuity will always find ways to make war costly to the other side.
Technical Concept Mistaken for Operating Concept
One of the main reasons for my criticism is that the HUNTER WARRIOR operating concept is not a true operating concept at all but merely a technical concept mistakenly treated as an operating concept (whether by design or default). Operating concepts describe generic strategic, operational, and tactical principles and schemes. They provide the foundation for how we operate in broad terms. Examples include mission tactics and operational maneuver from the sea (OMFTS). (Maneuver warfare is a complete system of primarily operating concepts.) By comparison, functional and technical concepts describe the performance of a particular function or technical task. They are subordinate to operating concepts. For example, sensor-to-shooter is a technical concept describing one specific fire-direction technique. Ship-to-objective maneuver is a functional concept describing one aspect of OMFTS. Functional and technical concepts are properly supporting concepts rather than operating concepts in their own rights. That is, they cannot stand on their own as a general description of overall operating principles, as mission tactics or OMFTS can, but require a broader operating concept that provides context and which they support. Testing a technical concept is fine, but it is important not to try to draw broader operational conclusions from it-as HUNTER WARRIOR has tried to do.
The practical application of an operating concept to a particular situation requires more specific functional and technical concepts. Higher level concepts thus provide the context within which lower level concepts can be applied. Conversely, supporting concepts must be compatible with the operating concepts they support. In the Marine Corps, this means that functional and technical concepts must be consistent with the operating concepts of maneuver warfare. For example, a technology or technique that imposes centralized command and control is generally incompatible with the operating principle of mission tactics. The conscious decision to adopt a technical concept that contradicts an existing operating concept necessarily calls into question the validity of the latter.
In the absence of a true operating concept, there is the danger of a supporting concept being treated as a operating concept. The result is operations as the rote application of technique and procedure: methodical battle, in which mechanical procedure replaces operational and tactical judgment. This is not all that uncommon in history. For example, the lack of a clear operating concept in Vietnam resulted in a U.S. “strategy” that amounted to little more than the accumulation of “body count.” The same phenomenon has occurred with HUNTER WARRIOR.
The HUNTER WARRIOR concept is basically a technical concept for the efficient processing and coordination of fire support. It is essentially a procedure. Treated as an operating concept, it reduces practically the full art and science of war to the processing of targets. The HUNTER WARRIOR teams are not tactical formations-of which, in fact, there are none in this concept-but merely fire control sensors. Planning is essentially reduced to plotting OPs and NAIs and scheduling insertions and extractions. The HUNTER WARRIOR concept sees the enemy not as a hostile, independent, and sentient will but simply as an array of targets to be serviced as efficiently as possible. HUNTER WARRIOR essentially reduces MAGTF operations in their entirety to the efficient processing of multiple fire requests. The MAGTF is no longer a warfighting organization but a targeting agency.
HUNTER WARRIOR and Existing Doctrine
Doctrine is not dogmatic ideology. It is general guidance that must allow wide latitude for differences of situation and that requires considerable judgment and technique in application. No doctrine should stand in the way of taking whatever action is effective in a given situation, and so we must be careful about passing judgment on the basis of doctrine alone. That said, however, the HUNTER WARRIOR concept is at such odds with the Marine Corps’ doctrine of maneuver warfare as to call into question their mutual compatibility. Logically, this does not by itself invalidate HUNTER WARRIOR; it could invalidate maneuver warfare. If HUNTER WARRIOR is meant to explore a radical change to existing doctrine, this is a valid experimental objective that should be addressed openly and explicitly. But this issue has never been raised explicitly. The exercise was never proposed as anything other than the continued development of maneuver warfare, which it clearly is not.
Maneuver warfare is based on certain basic beliefs about the nature of war: war is essentially an interactive clash-a Zweikampf or “twostruggle,” as Clausewitz put it-between independent, hostile, and sentient wills, characterized by constant friction, uncertainty, disorder, and fluid dynamics. It is a complex, distributed phenomenon resulting from the congregation of the individual, local actions of the numerous agents that make up each belligerent; it cannot be directed by a single, all-knowing intelligence. The HUNTER WARRIOR concept does not seem to share these fundamental views.
The HUNTER WARRIOR concept is extremely centralized. All decisions of any tactical or operational significance whatsoever are made at the MAGTF level. It is true that the rifle squads were widely dispersed on the battlefield, but mere physical dispersion should not be confused with decentralization. The MAGTF in HUNTER WARRIOR had an extremely flat organization, with a direct link between MAGTF and each rifle squad, but again, a flat organization does not equate to decentralization. An extremely flat organization such as this provides only two choices: extreme decentralization or extreme centralization. There is no middle ground. HUNTER WARRIOR was the most extreme attempt at centralization I have ever witnessed in a military operation. Where Marine Corps doctrine favors as much decentralization as each situation permits in order to promote initiative, flexibility and tempo, the HUNTER WARRIOR concept maximizes centralization for the sake of control and efficiency. It is interesting that the overwhelming lesson of the global Information Revolution has been individual empowerment-distribution, demassification, decentralization-and yet the predominant military response has been to try to use technology for even greater centralization. Because of its distributed complexity, war defies such efforts at extreme centralization. I have written elsewhere (MCG, Jan97 and May98) about the need for a new paradigm for command and control. I used the term “Newtonian” to describe the traditional paradigm which involves precise, mechanical, microscopic control from above. I argued instead for a more adaptive form of spontaneous cooperation below guided by broad macroscopic influence from above. HUNTER WARRIOR is Newtonian command and control in the extreme. In command and control terms, HUNTER WARRIOR is not an advancement but a regression.
Marine Corps tactical doctrine relies on principles such as initiative, tempo, and surprise, but the HUNTER WARRIOR concept practically eliminates the role of any of these. By covering the battlefield with stationary observation posts and waiting for the enemy to appear, the HUNTER WARRIOR concept willingly cedes the initiative to the enemy and allows him to operate at any tempo he chooses. It may pursue limited surprise by ambushing the enemy with supporting arms, but it does not seek to surprise proactively by understanding the enemy and exploiting that understanding with unexpected action that seizes the initiative and pursues a positive aim. The assumption behind HUNTER WARRIOR is that no matter what the enemy does, what tactics he employs or how quickly or cleverly he acts, we enjoy such an overwhelming technological superiority that we will be able to detect him and destroy him with precise, instantaneous long-range fires. History warns that such “techno hubris,” as Col Michael D. Wyly has put it, is a dangerous thing.
HUNTER WARRIOR and Technology
The Commandant has warned: “Technology is a combat multiplier, not a substitute for combat.” In all fairness, the Marine Corps seems less infatuated than the other Services with technology as the key to future military effectiveness. And it is definitely within the Lab’s charter to experiment with new technology-as well as with new methods and organizations. That said, however, I am concerned that the HUNTER WARRIOR concept places too much emphasis on technology at the expense of sound concepts. Technology can be a combat multiplier, as the Commandant says, but not necessarily. Just because a technology is exciting does not mean it will automatically improve performance. All technology comes with a cost in terms of overhead and constraints on operating methods. Improperly used, technology can even be counterproductive. “Improved” technology in support of a flawed concept is rarely an improvement.
The HUNTER WARRIOR concept is grounded firmly in the belief that technology almost by itself can revolutionize warfare. In this case, the “revolutionary” technology is digital communications, navigational aids and especially improved long-range precision firepower, which is expected to change the entire calculus of warfare. Let me make clear that I am all for making the most of technological progress. The effort to improve the capabilities and survivability of the rifle squad through improved communication, navigational equipment, and fire support is very important and long overdue. But HUNTER WARRIOR goes far beyond that. Its concept makes the modest technological improvement of current rifle squad capabilities the underlying concept for MAGTF operations. HUNTER WARRIOR is essentially a concept for automated warfare, designed to allow us to use technology to make war from a distance without having to put ourselves at significant risk-in short, as a substitute for combat. It will not happen. Such an approach fails to recognize the inherently interactive nature of war.
Generally, technology should support fundamental operating concepts, not vice versa. Unfortunately, whether consciously or not, the HUNTER WARRIOR concept seems driven more by technological imperatives than tactical or operational ones. Modern information technology is extremely useful in collecting, processing, communicating, and displaying data-the lowest form of information. Data are facts and figures. The technology is much less helpful in working with knowledge and understanding-less tangible forms of information that require human input in the form of cognition and judgment. Knowledge and understanding take the form of inferences about what the data mean and projections about future eventualities. They simply cannot be captured in data bases. Data may be useful in the technical and procedural activities, such as plotting the location of friendly and enemy units, but are of very limited value in making tactical and operational decisions, which instead rely on information that is much softer and more complex. The HUNTER WARRIOR concept, by reducing operations to a technical fire direction problem, supports the technology by maximizing the role of simple data and minimizing the role of soft information and judgment. The concept reduces the enemy essentially to a series of discrete targets and assumes that, for a target, hard data are all that is needed. Essentially a target consists of a location and description. With a target, we do not need to make inferences about what the data mean. We do not need to figure out enemy intentions, plans, or schemes. We do not need to project probable eventualities. We especially do not need to integrate individual pieces of data into macroscopic patterns. Either we engage the target or not. If we engage it and destroy it, inferences, eventualities, and patterns do not matter. The focus on battle damage assessments (BDA) that the concept encourages also plays to the strength of the technologyBDA is easily captured as quantifiable, data-level information.
Having essentially no moving parts once the squads are in place and requiring practically no tactical interaction with the enemy, the HUNTER WARRIOR concept also simplifies the friendly information situation. The static nature of the concept makes it easier to positively track friendly units. The HUNTER WARRIOR report observes that accurate tracking of the friendly situation by the MAGTF combat operations center was much lower during the one phase of the exercise when actual movement was involved: When the only forces on the ground were LRCPs, the ECOC [enhanced combat operations center] had no trouble keeping track of them. The displays lagged behind rapidly-moving forces such as the OME [operational maneuver element], however, and did not track aircraft well at all. Because the squads essentially only sit and observe, the only information required about the friendly situation is location-something easily satisfied by quantifiable data (an automated Global Positioning System (GPS) signal, in fact)-as compared to a unit engaged in mobile close combat, for example, which would necessitate much more complicated, qualitative, and fleeting information. Because units occupy static positions and do not “wrestle” with the enemy, this also simplifies the problems of deconflicting fires. Certainty of itself is not a bad thing, but we must realize we will never achieve it, and its pursuit should not become the driving force behind how we operate. Valid concepts and sound principles, rather than the requirements of technology, should be the basis for how we operate.
Countering HUNTER WARRIOR
Putting larger operational and doctrinal reservations aside, from a purely technical perspective HUNTER WARRIOR is vulnerable to several relatively simple countermeasures that were not adequately explored by the experiment. The HUNTER WARRIOR concept is predicated on the assumption that any enemy can be reduced to the status of target-thus reducing warfare to a technical targeting problem. But all potentially hostile entities on the battlefield simply cannot be treated that way. Targeting means not only that a potential prey can be detected and its location accurately fixed, it also requires that the potential target can be engaged effectively and that it be suitable for engagement in the first place. Just because we have the technical capability to engage by supporting arms does not necessarily mean that that is the right thing to do, militarily or politically.
The most obvious countermeasure is to disperse just as the HUNTER WARRIOR teams have done to complicate targeting and to avoid presenting a lucrative target. (This was in fact, the opposing force’s initial intention in the exercise, but it was prevented from doing so by the lack of sufficient numbers of controllers to move with each small element.) A guerrilla force, for example, dispersed in small units and lacking easily targeted heavy equipment and support, could effectively confound the HUNTER WARRIOR concept. A dispersed force operating in restricted terrain such as jungles or especially urban areas (the consensus battlefield of the future), where visibility is much more limited than in the desert and where long-range fires are less effective, could likewise negate the effectiveness of the concept. A force that mixed or shielded itself with a civilian populace, even if detected and located, might be invulnerable to engagement for fear of the collateral damage that would be caused. (The idea of using nonlethals to incapacitate everyone and then sorting things out once everyone is “down for the count” greatly oversimplifies the problem and betrays an imperialistic highhandedness that will be political inviable in many situations.) And finally, an enemy who operated in a way calculated not to justify massive punishment-a deathby-a-thousand-pinpricks approachmight also be largely invulnerable to the “distance warfare” of HUNTER WARRIOR.
The concept might work tolerably well against a clearly identifiable enemy who, with no air cover, was nonetheless willing to operate in easily targetable, massed formations in the open, unshielded by civilian populations. In other words, it might have worked tolerably well against the Iraqis in 1991. But as the Commandant has said: “Few sandlot strongmen will come up and pull Uncle Sam’s beard and challenge us to a rematch of DESERT STORM. Enemies will not attempt to match us tank for tank and ship for ship.” Indeed, perhaps the overriding lesson of the Gulf War is that no potential enemy can allow the United States to fight such an industrial war. In fact, one of the dominant trends in the evolution of military methods today, especially in the tumultuous developing world where conflicts are most likely to arise, is the development of tactics specifically designed to negate a more advanced enemy’s technological superiority.
Some of the most interesting operating concepts and some of the most valuable tactical lessons to come out of the experiment were provided by the opposing force (OpFor), which was not constrained by any preconceived operating concepts and therefore had more freedom to adapt its methods to the situation. The OpFor was required (by the rules of the exercise) to try to attack the HUNTER WARRIOR teams. But rather than the direct approach of scouring the rugged mountains of Twentynine Palms in search of the teams on the ground, which would have amounted to searching for a needle in a haystack, the OpFor decided to focus on attacking the teams in their transport helicopters prior to insertion, when they were much easier to locate and when a single shoulder-launched missile could eliminate one or more squads once and for all. This was a truly asymmetrical response, and like most truly asymmetrical responses, it came as a surprise. As a result, neither the OpFor’s airdefense systems nor the MAGTF’s transport helicopters had been instrumented for the exercise, and even though the OpFor felt it had (in one officer’s words) “shot down every transport helicopter that entered the AO [area of operations],” it was not getting credit for any kills and the HUNTER WARRIOR teams were suffering no losses.
(This is again not a criticism of the Lab: one cannot rightly be criticized for failing to predict the unexpected. It does, however, make the point that no matter what we do, the enemy is likely to adopt a countermeasure we had not anticipated. It further serves as a reminder that war is fundamentally a clash of human wills and intellects, and not merely a technical test of weapons systems versus targets. HUNTER WARRIOR reminds us that we underestimate the human element in war at our own significant peril. The OpFor demonstrated what the Elder von Moltke was fond of saying: “You will usually find that the enemy has three courses open to him, and of these he will adopt the fourth.”)
To its credit, the Lab recognized this potential gamebreaker in its report:
Clear that LAAD [low-altitude air defense] teams had a lot of engagement opportunities . . . What is not clear is the interaction and effects-air defense and survivability during insertion/extraction needs additional investigat[ion] …. Because they were uninstrumented, we don’t really know what the force-on-force outcome of helicopters vs. LAAD was…. [S]eeing is not targeting for air defense, either, and the critical element-how many “good” opportunities OpFor air defense had against SPMAGTF helicopters is missing. We need to experiment with and investigate the issue of helicopter survival against low-altitude air defense further. We also should investigate other means (e.g., surface insertion) of inserting and extracting the LCRPs. Even at pessimistic Pk [probability of kill] levels it appears the transport aircraft would have been engaged which may have resulted in the aircraft being downed or at [least] a “mission abort.” . . . [T]he substantial number of shots taken highlights the need to improve the survivability of transports conducting inserts/extracts when a ground-based air-defense threat exists. One countermeasure the OpFor was expressly prohibited from employing was attacking the MAGTF’s extensive and potentially fragile command and control apparatus by electronic warfare of any other means. All that technology may provide significant capability, but it also creates significant dependency. Understandably, the Lab wanted to find out how well such a complicated C4I system would function uninterfered with before letting an enemy attack it. Nonetheless, that leaves unresolved the issue of how vulnerable HUNTER WARRIOR command and control is to disruption and how significant are the effects of that disruption on the quality of operation. Because HUNTER WARRIOR command and control is extremely centralized, it is reasonable to expect that the effect of disruption would be significant at least.
This evidence does not invalidate the concept outright, but it casts doubt on the validity of the concept and is sufficient cause for reservation. Even on a technical basis, the HUNTER WARRIOR concept appears to have only a limited range of applicability.
I sincerely believe Exercise HUNTER WARRIOR was a success, or at least has the potential to be a success, depending on what we learn from it. Nothing in this criticism is meant to repudiate the potentially very valuable lessons of the experiment. First and foremost, the experiment revealed significant questions about using the HUNTER WARRIOR concept as an operating concept, as I have discussed. These should be seriously contemplated before we consider possible implementation. The experiment illustrated the importance of a solid conceptual basis for combat development. It showed the dangers of mistaking a supporting technical concept for an operating concept. It revealed ways in which the HUNTER WARRIOR concept is inconsistent with existing doctrine, requiring reconsideration of one or the other. It revealed potentially effective tactical and operational methods, which had not been considered, for countering the concept.
It uncovered several technical, tactical, and operational issues of significant interest, such as the problems of squad insertion and helicopter survivability. HUNTER WARRIOR has in fact revealed a wealth of potentially valuable lessons, although generally not the obvious lessons most people anticipated entering the experiment- and only if we are truly interested in learning them.
In a recent U.S. News & World Report article, Col Wyly wrote about the current conflict between two opposing schools of military thought:
Technological Superiority Theory holds that high-performance aircraft, smart bombs, longrange missiles, electronic sensors, “secure” communications, and computerized information technology will deter any less sophisticated foe. So defending the nation becomes a matter of developing technological systems, then training soldiers to use them.
Mental Agility Theory suggests that any technological barrier can be circumvented by a determined enemy dispersed so that he is less of a target, fighting at close quarters.
HUNTER WARRIOR clearly falls within the school of Technological Superiority Theory, while maneuver warfare falls generally under Mental Agility Theory. Wyly observes that while “no thinking professional would completely rule out either theory”: Technological Superiority Theory is the prevailing view at the Pentagon today, even though it is clear the problems we will face for the next several decades cannot be solved by lobbing high-tech munitions at an enemy from long standoff distances. This was evident in the recent Persian Gulf crisis, where our strategy was predicated on an attack without extensive ground action. No one could give assurances that this strategy would bring Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to heel. . . . In DESERT STORM, American technology rained on the enemy for 38 days, amid hope that the dreaded ground attack would not be necessary. But the ground attack did have to come. Will there ever arise a situation when high-tech “distance warfare” will be the appropriate military solution to a political problem? Absolutely, although, the Gulf War possibly notwithstanding, the trend clearly is in the other direction. “The future is not the son of DESERT STORM, but the stepchild of Somalia and Chechnya,” the Commandant said in a recent Army Times interview. “We need a new view of warfare. We need to replace the industrial approach, which we have now.” I argue that HUNTER WARRIOR embodies the industrial approach.
In its proper place, as a technical concept in support of an appropriate operating concept, HUNTER WARRIOR may have some practical meritbut not as a MAGTF operating concept. In those situations calling for “distant punishment,” other Services will play the primary role because, even if the Marine Corps can do it as well or better, it is all some of the other Services will be able to do. The Marine Corps will be called on to perform the types of missions it has always performed-expeditionary operations in complex and unruly situations requiring a close physical presence on the ground and discretionary direct action. And in fact, the growing consensus is that these are precisely the types of operations the future will require most.
There can be little disagreement that the HUNTER WARRIOR concept is incompatible with maneuver warfare in philosophy and general principle. Indeed, it seems at such a variance with warfighting as to not even share the latter’s underlying assumptions about the limits of technology and the very nature of war itself. Perhaps the greatest success of the HUNTER WARRIOR experiment is that it has indirectly raised a truly fundamental question: Has technology at last so profoundly changed the dynamics of warfare that the Clausewitzian assumptions, descriptions, and principles no longer apply? I think there is only wishful thinking, but no empirical evidence, to support this. Clearly others disagree, for this is the unspoken assumption behind Technological Superiority Theory. In any event, this is a weighty issue of profound importance to the future of both our Corps and our Country. It is not irrelevant ideology-which is precisely why it needs to be discussed deeply and at length.