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Thread: Multinational corps and formations

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Default Multinational corps and formations

    ...and now to something completely different, something that will likely not interest most Americans:


    We had and have a fashion in Central Europe, the creation of multinational corps and formations.

    A multinational formation is the Franco-German Brigade in Müllheim/Donauschingen/Immendingen (isn't it funny? Germany comes first in its German designation; Deutsch-Französische Brigade ).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-German_Brigade

    A multinational corps example is the I. German/Dutch Corps.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I._German/Dutch_Corps

    There was much talk about "combined" ops, but these multinational efforts were rather of political nature than about military necessities in my opinion.

    I like the idea of multinational corps because they offer better opportunities to gain and sustain experience at the leadership level of a Corps for smaller armies (like the Dutch one). There's also a small gain in experience by learning from each other. The cohesion problem shouldn't be serious with national formations in a multinational Corps.


    I do dislike the concept of a multinational Brigade for its serious cohesion and friction disadvantages. It would be OK if we would rotate it - for two years a Brigade with the Danes, next two years with the Dutch, next two years with the Czechs, then French, Belgians and again. That would at least maximize the learning and exchange effects.
    The permanent (and politically quite immune) Franco-German Brigade is a dumb idea form a military point of view (or actually, mine).
    It's immune to disbanding because every step back in European unification process is being considered to be a disaster and spell of doom for the EU (quite an exaggeration), but not on my part). The multinational Brigade and Corps are being considered to be prototypes for a unified European military, and seen as permanent. It would be politically very difficult to end the experiment.



    Any thoughts?

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    Council Member Chris jM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    I do dislike the concept of a multinational Brigade for its serious cohesion and friction disadvantages. It would be OK if we would rotate it - for two years a Brigade with the Danes, next two years with the Dutch, next two years with the Czechs, then French, Belgians and again. That would at least maximize the learning and exchange effects.
    The permanent (and politically quite immune) Franco-German Brigade is a dumb idea form a military point of view (or actually, mine).

    Any thoughts?
    Permanent coalition groupings have always been of interest to me - especially as there has been recent talk between NZ of creating a permanent sub-unit posting within the Australian Army for a regional 'QRF' of sorts. However, that's rather inconsequential to the European situation when you consider our minuscule size and that the NZ/Aus cultures are exceptionally similar if not interchangeable within Armies.*

    One question to the European situation, language - what is the lingua franca between continental states in military and aviation circles? French, German or English? EDIT: I should have put in originally that I noted the official language of the German/ Dutch Corp was English, and thus wondered if this extended across the other military circles.

    * As an unrelated aside, the greatest difference between our armies is pay. I spent time in a CP on ops where an Aussie lance corporal radio operator was the highest paid person in the room. His paycheck exceeded even that of our CSM or Coy Comd - a fact he liked to remind us of frequently, bless him.
    Last edited by Chris jM; 05-20-2010 at 10:00 AM.
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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    English is the NATO language.

    The Eastern Europeans have some troubles with English because the older soldiers (40+) didn't learn it at school.

    The French are often rather reluctant to learn English.

    The Franco_German Brigade may benefit of the fact that Alsace and Lorraine - the two French border provinces - have a mixed history and many inhabitants who know German (about a Third of the adults know a German dialect). I'm not informed how well the French exploit this opportunity.

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    I spent three years in the ARRC and I agree that the multinational corps is an excellent tool for building cohesion among allies. It is also an excellent way to expose small armies (such as Canada, UK, and Denmark) to work at the three-star level...more important for their majors and lieutenant colonels than their generals, in my opinion. After all, every European country that today can barely muster a palace guard has, in the past, fielded multi-corps forces. Corps is probably the best and lowest level at which you want to construct multinational staffs. At lower levels there is too much friction created by day-to-day operations with actual soldiers and equipment. At higher levels, national politics begins to become a real problem and...to be brutally honest...in NATO there is little constructive work that can be accomplished at echelons-above-corps.

    The only caveat is that, with no units permanently attached or assigned, the headquarters tend to be onanistic and unfamiliar with the friction of everyday operations

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eden View Post
    I spent three years in the ARRC and I agree that the multinational corps is an excellent tool for building cohesion among allies. It is also an excellent way to expose small armies (such as Canada, UK, and Denmark) to work at the three-star level...
    Slightly intrigued to know how the UK qualifies as a smaller not well exposed to working at the three-star level. ... but all other points well made, especially not trying it below Corps or Theatre level.
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    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    I concur with Eden.

    The UK army rarely works at corps level (having only the one Corps HQ) and equally rarely within an understood corps context. When our div HQs exercise the scenario inevitably focuses on them (to run them out) and when they train for deployments (Afghanistan or Iraq) I suspect they see Corps HQs as their higher HQs without understanding the corps level of operations. My perspective from Iraq is that Div staff did not understand what Corps could do for them in terms of flexing resources, nor how Corps managed the campaign.

    I would also say that Corps is the level where multinationality works well, at Div it is okay and (from personal experience) at brigade level it sucks.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Rat View Post
    I suspect they see Corps HQs as their higher HQs without understanding the corps level of operations. My perspective from Iraq is that Div staff did not understand what Corps could do for them in terms of flexing resources, nor how Corps managed the campaign.
    I agree with your basic point, but IIRC 1 BR Corps became the ARRC - did it not? Basically the ARRC is built on what the UK knew about the Corps level of Operations. I'd also submit, that Corps level operations are extremely theatre and context specific.
    If you're telling me that UK's understanding of Corps level operations is not what it was, I'll take your word for it, and ponder as to why.
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    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    I think the ARRC (ex 1 BR Corps) knows its business, but that is a relatively small pool of staff in the army.

    Intermediate Command and Staff Course (Land) (ICSC(L)) which is mandatory staff training for all newly promoted majors focuses on the brigade level. The advanced staff course is joint and does not have a Land phase per se (where we used to concetrate on Div and Corps level) so...

    We have recognised we have an issue here although I am not sure what we will do about it

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    Does HCSC not cover the Joint Commander (and I presume Corps) level discussions. Or have I missed the point from my Maritime perspective; lets be honest, we'll never have a "Fleet" again....

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    Default Hcsc

    I can but dream of achieving those lofty spires!

    I've had 'maverick' bandied around far too much in my reports to get there!

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    I would submit that no western army has conducted a corps-level operation anywhere in the world since 1991, at least not in a tactical sense. We do have corps headquarters operating in war zones today, but their mighty warmaking faculties are typically focused on running brigade, battalion, and even company size operations.

    If and when we are called upon to do so, I suspect there will be many lessons to be relearned.

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    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eden View Post
    I would submit that no western army has conducted a corps-level operation anywhere in the world since 1991, at least not in a tactical sense.
    Maybe not in a manoeuvre sense, but MNC-I in 2007 with their Phantom Thunder and Phantom Strike operations seemed to be running Corps level operations?

    I stand by to be educated!

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    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    Default i forgot...

    Surely 2003 saw Corps level manoeuvre? Let along Gulf War 1?

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    Council Member Chris jM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Rat View Post
    I would also say that Corps is the level where multinationality works well, at Div it is okay and (from personal experience) at brigade level it sucks.
    Could you (or everyone else who has agreed with these sentiments) help out an ignorant colonial, then, and explain what it is about the Div/ Brigade threshold that leads one to a workable coalition construct and one that doesn't?

    It's going to have to have something to do with friction inside one's on chain, but I can't quite pick why one would be suitable over another. Is it to do with supporting fires best being co-ordinated within Div and lower, thus allowing for one to preserve your own culture in allocating and applying fires, or something else?

    Fuchs, how does language work then inside the German/ Dutch Bde - obviously orders would be given to one's own soldiers in your native tongue at the lower units, but how about at Bn level? Are all radio comms are in english or certain radio nets only?
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    Council Member Kiwigrunt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris jM View Post

    Fuchs, how does language work then inside the German/ Dutch Bde - obviously orders would be given to one's own soldiers in your native tongue at the lower units, but how about at Bn level? Are all radio comms are in english or certain radio nets only?
    I don't know about the Germans but the Dutch are using an ever increasing amount of English, especially in professional and technical arenas. Sometimes even to the point of annoying, like they are forgetting their own language. So for orders etc. they do indeed use Dutch, but with a lot of English key words and jargon thrown in.
    Also, the more educated (typically officers, one would assume) speak English quite well, and many speak German reasonably to quite well. These languages (and French) are quite widely taught at school.
    So if they need to communicate with the Germans they should have little trouble switching to English or indeed even German.
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    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    Default Why it works at Div and above, but not below...

    My personal experience is of having seen the ARRC, MNDSE in Iraq and having spent 10 months with the Kabul Multi-National Bde.

    I am in two minds as to whether it is the size or the construct of the HQ which matters most.

    My experience is that where there is a lead nation then individual augmentees can slot in and the system works well. At Div and Corps where I have seen this happen it has worked very well. In MNDSE in 2005-6 it was the multinational augmentees that kept the ostensibly British HQ MNDSE afloat!

    Where there is no lead nation or where the number of multinational augmentees is larger then 1/3 then national sensitivities start to cause a lot of friction. I think that bde HQs, despite their burgeoning size are still too small to allow a great degree of multinationality; the friction outweighs the benefits.

    Common doctrine and language is one thing, but equally important when looking how these things work is what we call 'MSCOM' (Military Secretary Command) ie: who writes your report and does it count...

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    I'm not sure how it works in the German/Dutch Corps.
    Both Germans and Dutch commonly know English, officers are simply expected to know English and most Dutch understand German because
    a) the languages are somewhat similar (Dutch is in between English and German)
    b) Dutch people watch German TV stations because they don't have a good choice of Dutch stations
    c) they can/do learn it at school

    As a German, there's a golden rule, though:
    Never initiate a conversation with Dutchmen in German. Begin in English, eventually they'll propose to talk in German unless they're really much better in English than German.
    It's about a "small neighbour" syndrome and a bit also about the "the stole my Grandpa's bike" problem.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    I cannot see any advantage in a multi-national HQs. Why are they required to run multi-national formations, divisions or Corps?

    If I am UK brigade, I am quite happy to have Dutch Tank company attached. At most I may want a Dutch LO, but that's it. I certainly do not want a BG from another nation. Multi-national should mean someone under Command of someone else. Joint-command cannot work except as a very poor compromise. I understand the real world is different, but we do have to recognise that such organisations will run less well, when under real-pressure. So-
    Corps should issue order for the next 36-24 hours, which should flow down to leave BGs 4 hours to plan and issue orders. That is the gold standard required and I doubt you can do that in a multi-national HQ.

    HQ Size: Well here's an issue in itself. HQ benefits nothing from size. There are endless command studies that show this.

    As an aside an IDF Formation HQ is less than 100 men, all up. - It's a Signals Company. The actual key players number less than 10.
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    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    That's already quite slow for mobile warfare, especially on the part of the brigades (unless they're resting in a camp).

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    That's already quite slow for mobile warfare, especially on the part of the brigades (unless they're resting in a camp).
    Maybe but IIRC, Guderian's Corps orders were for operations were issued about every 24 hours. Orders issued at midnight should carry through for 24 hours. EG: He issues Corps Order No 14 at 20:00hrs on the 27th and does not issue 15 until 23:15 on the 28th.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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