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Capabilities Gaps of the U.S. Army on a Nuclear Battlefield


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Since the end of the Cold War, the Army executed operations in asymmetric conflicts without the threat of tactical nuclear weapons. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, US Army doctrine and capabilities were obligated to account for the potential use of low yield nuclear weapons to destroy, degrade and deter land forces in the event of an escalation to armed conflict. When the threat of great powers and regional actors utilizing nuclear weapons dissipated the Army moved away from thinking about the considerations of those weapons. The Army's priorities changed, and no longer included a focus on capabilities related to nuclear weapons use. However, the global political situation over the last decade is trending back towards great power competition. The Army is shifting its professional military education and training to large-scale combat operations. The National Training Center returned to decisive action training rotations to prepare for near-peer adversaries once again, after years of counterinsurgency rotations. However, in the return to preparing for a great power conflict, the Army must consider the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons once again. Russia and China specifically have the potential to utilize these weapons as part of an anti-access, area-denial strategy. Therefore, the Army must discern the capabilities gaps that exist to project and sustain US combat power in future conflicts, under the threat of a nuclear operating environment.



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