U.S. Army Urban Operations


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The Era of Urban Warfare is Already Here

Correcting these and creating an urban warfare training center will require substantial resources. Second, an urban research center should be associated with this school.

Primer on Urban Operations Welcome Information

Nowhere is this truer than on urban battlefields. Mastery of military art and science is only one necessary element in urban operations. An understanding of demography, anthropology, engineering, municipal management, law, emergency services, civil-military operations, social networks and more are imperatives. A research center would bring interdisciplinary expertise together and orient it collectively toward the complex challenge of enabling success in cities. Finally, as Milley has made clear, units themselves will need to look different in order to be optimized for cities.

But how?

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The best way to find out is to create an experimental urban warfare unit. It should be given wide latitude to test unique formations within its ranks. But beyond that, it would also use rotations at the combat training centers—and at an urban warfare training center, once that is complete—to test new, nonstandard equipment and tactics. Its training would be focused less on validation exercises that other units undergo at the combat training centers and more on finding solutions—from incremental improvements to game-changing breakthroughs—that will enhance its combat effectiveness in urban areas.

Informed by dedicated urban warfare research, the unit would serve as the principal learning organization at the forefront of Army planning for future operations in cities. That has mostly been possible in the past. As The Combat Soldier author Anthony King has written, throughout most of history, military forces have fought for cities but not in them.

For a variety of reasons, though, that will almost certainly not be an option in the future. A range of scenarios can be imagined that will pull U. Army units into increasingly dense urban environments. The future battlefield is an urban one, and that future is not far off.


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John Amble is editorial director of the Modern War Institute at West Point and co-director of its Urban Warfare Project, an initiative to study the character of war in cities. He is also a military intelligence officer in the U. Army senior leaders have made it clear that the Army will begin preparing for operations in dense urban areas. The chief of staff of the Army, Gen. An Army senior officer whose views on urban operations are relevant and important is Gen.

Stephen Townsend, currently the commanding general of Training and Doctrine Command.

Fixing the Way the Army Trains for Urban Warfare

Townsend not only believes the enemy will continue to pull the U. But how do you train for operating in a megacity with over 10 million residents like Seoul, Mumbai, or Lagos or even urban area with populations over a million like Tripoli, Tijuana, or Taipei? Flow is the movement of people, resources, information, or things in and out of a city through a network of lines and systems similar to the blood stream, nervous system of a living organism.

But understanding the social infrastructure, demography, governance, economics, power hierarchies, and security systems of how a city works goes beyond Army capabilities and tactics for urban combat. It requires a formal educational program provided by experts. That is exactly what study groups and urban scholars such as Alice Hills and Michael Evans have recommended for a long time. Professional military education within the institutional Army and urban studies programs at civilian institutions for the most part do not include a long term academic urban specific focus on researching the military and broader security implications of cities.

None of them, however, is the definitive study. A very complete work is the classic Viollet-le-Duc , but it suffers from being written as a fictional account and not addressing modern urban operations. The most comprehensive in terms of time is Davis , which covers the spectrum from ancient military operations to capture cities to the siege of Sarajevo in Comprehensive in terms of analysis of modern operations is DiMarco , which examines the evolution of urban warfare from to in Iraq by looking at the evolution of urban operations since World War II through the lens of nine detailed case studies, and includes an essay on the evolution of urban warfare to the modern era.


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  • Spiller is a more general examination of the urban environment in warfare, without a detailed focus on any specific operation. Ashworth is similar to Spiller , with a greater historical focus and less focus on contemporary operations. Overall, there is not a lot of single-author works comprehensively looking at the subject of urban warfare through the course of military history.

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    This reflects an underappreciation on the part of historians and military affairs writers of urban operations as a unique type of military operation. It also reflects the general lack of specialization in the area of warfare in cities until very recently. Ashworth, Gregory J.

    War and the City. New York: Routledge, DOI: A general look of urban warfare focused primarily on the Early Modern period. Its great weakness is the lack of any focus on contemporary operations. Bell, J. Besieged: Seven Cities under Siege. Philadelphia: Chilton, This book is interesting because it covers some subjects that others do not.

    It also extends the idea of urban warfare into what US Army doctrine calls stability operations.

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    Prepare the Army for Future Urban Battlefield | AUSA

    The time period covered by the book is relatively short. Davis, Paul K. Besieged: Great Sieges from Jericho to Sarajevo. A solid survey of the great military sieges through the course of military history.

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