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Blunt Challenges: The Blunt Layer in Future Large-Scale Combat Operations

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[Technical Report, Monograph]

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies

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Chinese and Russian investments in anti-access area denial and other capabilities raise the possibility they may rapidly invade a US ally or partner. The 2018 National Defense Strategy introduced a new warfighting approach to counter this fait accompli adversary theory of victory. The four-layer model differs from the slow build-up of force previously favored by the United States. It includes a blunt layer of forces resisting the invasion from the start, until sufficient strength surges to transition to the offense. As the United States prepares for the future fight, it must identify the challenges associated with the blunt layer as a necessary first step to deter or defeat, an adversary fait accompli. Conducting the blunt layer in large-scale combat operations would prove very challenging. Review of the operational requirements to deny, or degrade and delay enemy gains, provides clarity on the specific demands of blunting aggression. The opening days of the Korean War offer a useful, but imperfect, case study to illuminate these challenges in action. Reflection on subsequent changes in the US Army and relevant technological advances, as well as possible future scenarios, tests the analogy. From this reflection blunt layer challenges are framed into eight categories political, competitive, positional, manning, training, equipping, organization, and leadership. In most categories, conducting the blunt layer to oppose a future Chinese invasion of Taiwan or Russian invasion of Estonia would prove even more challenging than blunting the North Korean invasion of South Korea in 1950.

Subject Categories:

  • Humanities and History
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

Distribution Statement:

[A, Approved For Public Release]