Arming the Force on the 21st-Century Battlefield
by Captain James O. Winbush, Jr.
Logistics systems supporting both Force XXI and the Army After Next (AAN) are focusing primarily on providing the warfighter the right support at the right time and place as quickly as possible. The Ordnance Corps' answer to this challenge is a more flexible ammunition distribution system that provides asset visibility throughout the entire pipeline, from manufacturer to foxhole. This distribution system, called Ammo XXI, provides greater velocity and increased flexibility to meet the requirements of all future operations, including force projection, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, and aid to civil authorities.
The Army currently operates under the Maneuver-Oriented Ammunition Distribution System-Palletized Loading System (MOADS-PLS). To meet the Force XXI combat commanders' needs and establish an expandable theater distribution system, the Army must transition from conventional general-support (GS) and direct-support (DS) ammunition companies to modular ammunition companies. Under the Ammo XXI concept, the makeup of each ammunition company will be based on mission, enemy, terrain, troops, and time available (METT-T). For example, depending on the size and complexity of the mission, ammunition companies will be composed of a headquarters platoon and two to five heavy- or medium-lift platoons. Heavy- and medium-lift platoons also will be capable of operating independent of the headquarters element, which will allow maximum flexibility for tailoring the support structure to meet the combat mission.
Modular Ammunition Platoons
The modular ammunition company will have a headquarters platoon of 30 soldiers and 2 to 5 ammunition platoons. The headquarters platoon will provide basic logistics, administrative, and command and control functions for the company. The company normally will function as part of a corps support battalion (CSB) or a corps support group (CSG) and receive additional logistics and administrative support from its parent unit.
The heavy-lift platoon, which consists of 52 soldiers, operates at the port of debarkation, the theater storage area (TSA), or the corps storage area (CSA). Its materials-handling equipment (MHE) includes three rough-terrain container cranes; four 6,000-pound, variable-reach, rough-terrain forklifts; two 10,000-pound, rough-terrain forklifts; and three PLS trucks with trailers. The heavy-lift platoon can handle both breakbulk and containerized ammunition shipments. More specifically, it can stuff and unstuff 20-foot international standards organization (ISO) containers, which are the primary means of shipping ammunition into the theater. When not assigned as part of an ammunition company, heavy-lift platoons have a direct command and control relationship with a CSB or a CSG.
Medium-lift platoons operate primarily in the division rear at the ammunition supply point (ASP); however, they also can be found at the TSA and the CSA. The medium-lift platoon consists of 48 soldiers, and its MHE includes six 6,000-pound, variable-reach, rough-terrain forklifts; two 10,000-pound, rough-terrain forklifts; and three PLS trucks with trailers. Because it does not have cranes, this platoon cannot handle containerized ammunition shipments. However, it can handle breakbulk and preconfigured ammunition loads.
In addition to its mission at the ASP, CSA, or TSA, each medium-lift platoon provides personnel needed to run an ammunition transfer point (ATP). Each platoon has an ATP section that consists of 4 soldiers; a 6,000-pound, variable-reach, rough-terrain forklift; and a PLS truck with trailer. ATP personnel from three medium-lift platoons comprise the rear ATP, for a total of 12 personnel and 6 pieces of MHE, making the rear ATP capable of 24-hour operations.
Current Versus Future Ammunition Doctrine
Current ammunition doctrine states that combat-configured loads (CCL's) will be built by ammunition units in theater at the CSA and shipped forward using PLS trucks and trailers. To meet the future operational requirements of Force XXI, the Ammo XXI concept proposes that these CCL's, which will be renamed strategic-configured loads (SCL's), be built at depots in the continental United States (CONUS) and shipped in 20-foot ISO containers to the theater of operations. SCL's will move directly from the depot to the weapon system or will be reconfigured into mission-configured loads (MCL's) once they are in the theater. MCL's will be built from SCL's or from breakbulk ammunition that arrives in the theater to support specific missions based on METT-T. In Ammo XXI, the doctrinal flow of ammunition on the battlefield remains unchanged from MOADS-PLS.
Sustainment requirements will flow from the theater of operations to the depot and the industrial production base under the Ammo XXI concept. Ammunition that is preconfigured in weapon system loads will flow to the user through a rapidly moving distribution system.
Transportation enhancements will play a key role in enabling modular ammunition units to provide responsive and flexible support to combat units. Since there are no cranes forward of the CSA, the Ammo XXI concept has containers going no farther forward than the CSA. At that point, all containers will be unstuffed and the ammunition stored or shipped forward for issue or storage. PLS flatracks will facilitate most of the ammunition shipments to the forward areas. In addition, container roll-in/roll-out platforms (CROP)the latest flatrack designwill enable SCL's to be removed directly from containers by PLS trucks. This will save time and reduce the quantity of MHE needed to unstuff containers.
Increasing the velocity at which ammunition moves forward on the battlefield also will increase its survivability. The reduced quantity of ammunition in the theater will require better survivability for critical high-dollar munitions. A formal integrated concept team (ICT) is being chartered by the Army Training and Doctrine Command to review the full spectrum of munitions survivability. The ICT will address survivability issues from the depot to the user and the retrograde of munitions. Materiel solutions, such as the ballistic protective system, which is a modular Kevlar cover system, are being developed to enhance survivability of high-dollar munitions during transportation.
The forward ATP's will be run by the forward support battalion's (FSB's) ATP section. Under Ammo XXI, the forward support company (FSC), a part of the FSB, will pick up ammunition from the ATP in preconfigured loads and deliver it to the user. The Army's Force XXI concept reorganization proposal for the division support command (DISCOM) creates three forward support companies per FSB. Each FSC will have a distribution section that delivers supplies, including ammunition, to its supported combat units. This represents a change from the supply point distribution system in use today.
Ammunition Management Information Systems
Major changes in standard Army management information systems to support Ammo XXI resupply operations are underway. Currently, the Army is fielding the Standard Army Ammunition System-Modified (SAAS-MOD) in the Pacific theater. SAAS-MOD provides stock record accounting and receipt, storage, and issue at each ammunition support activity (TSA, CSA, ASP, and ATP). Fielding SAAS-MOD to the ATP provides automated supply procedures at that level for the first time. SAAS-MOD also provides ammunition management data to the corps materiel management center and the division ammunition officer.
The Unit Level Logistics System-S4 currently is being developed to provide automated request and issue procedures for ammunition at the unit level. Also, as part of the Army digitization effort, technology is being developed to provide on-board automated recording and reporting of ammunition expenditures of major weapon systems. These efforts will automate request procedures from the weapon system to the ammunition support activity and provide asset visibility from the foxhole to the depot.
The Ordnance Corps' vision of support of the Army of the 21st century requires a more responsive and efficient munitions logistics distribution system. Leveraging logistics information and the latest industrial technology will enable reduced numbers of ordnance soldiers to provide seamless ammunition support in any contingency. The modular units of the Ammo XXI concept will give commanders flexibility to tailor ammunition support packages to meet mission requirements without committing unnecessary resources. ALOG
Captain James O. Winbush, Jr., is an action officer in the Directorate of Combat Developments for Ordnance at the Combined Arms Support Command, Fort Lee, Virginia. An Ordnance Corps officer now serving in the Acquisition Corps, he holds a B. S. degree in engineering technology from Old Dominion University. He is a graduate of the Army Logistics Management College's Materiel Acquisition Management Course.