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The assault breacher vehicle in the multinational brigade the explosive dynamic of interoperability.

In the face of aggression from the East, tensions grow among America's European allies, resulting in the need for North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies and partners to "shift from meeting operational demand to meeting operational preparedness." (1) The recent ideological change in operational readiness is most evident at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC), Hohenfels, Germany, one of three combat training centers that the U.S. Army maintains. Located in the heart of Europe, the JMRC serves as the proving ground for joint and multinational forces to train in the decisive-action training environment, which features a hybrid and near-peer threat for rotational training units to fight within the scenario. The JMRC is the catalyst for this increased need to provide interoperable multinational brigades, which the deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Europe recently referred to as a "proof of principle." (2)

While training unified land operations at the JMRC, multinational brigades typically execute combined arms mobility operations or breaching operations, one of "the single most difficult combat task a unit can perform." (3) recent JMRC training rotation saw the introduction of the first assault breacher vehicles (ABVs) into a multinational brigade. The ABV is a tracked, joint (U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps) combat engineer vehicle designed to conduct deliberate and hasty breaching of minefields and complex obstacles. It was fielded by the U.S. Army in 2011 to provide a combat engineer platform that is more capable than previous equipment sets for supporting mobility operations at the tactical level, increasing the explosive and mechanical breach capability for the armored brigade combat team, and providing additional protection for combat engineers conducting the breach. The ABV has been used overseas in contingency operations but is now being integrated into multinational brigades training in Europe.

Integrating the ABV into multinational brigades for mobility support is the ultimate test of interoperability. "Interoperability-associated costs at the operational and tactical level tend to result from inefficiencies caused by a number of possible factors," to include strategy, doctrine, and systems capabilities. (4) So, how does an ad hoc multinational brigade integrate the ABV to achieve interoperability, ensuring that the multinational combined arms breach is a success? The answer is simple: ensure that maneuver commanders, engineer leaders, and staff members have a shared understanding of the system capabilities, NATO and U.S. engineer doctrine, and established standard operating procedures for breach operations.

This shared understanding can be achieved in the following ways:

* Capabilities briefings.

* Engineer working groups.

[] Engineer network.

[] NATO-U.S. doctrine crosswalk.

[] Standard operating procedures.

* Combined arms rehearsals (CARs).

Capabilities briefings. Observations from JMRC rotations indicate that the U.S. Army maintains a more robust explosive breach package at the tactical level than its NATO allies and partners. During the formation of a multinational brigade that includes ABVs, these capabilities must be conveyed to maneuver commanders and engineer staffs at all echelons. The understanding gained from a thorough capabilities briefing will influence future task organizations and courses of action. The engineer company commander or senior representative should deliver this briefing, which is the beginning of building networks and critical relationships across the formation.

The information requirements for a proper capabilities briefing include-

* Explosive and mechanical breach.

* Lane marking and proofing.

* Sustainment requirements.

While these topics may seem elementary, the importance of knowing these facts cannot be overstated. For example, a well-developed capabilities briefing would highlight the fact that each "ABV can reduce an obstacle with its linear demolition charge, proof a lane with its mine plow, and mark lanes while the other ABVs provide redundancy and alternatives for the combat formation." (5) Also, the overall capabilities for lane reduction must be articulated in numbers, to include the number of vehicle lanes through reinforcing tactical obstacles at varying depths and complexity.

Engineer working groups. As multinational brigades are established, the engineer coordinator must develop routine and battle rhythm engineer working groups. Foremost on the agenda should be establishing the engineer network within the brigade, which consists of the following:

* Brigade engineer.

* Task force and battle group engineers.

* Brigade engineer battalion leaders and staff.

The fires community in the U.S. Army does extremely well at establishing and maintaining its own network of artillery commissioned and noncommissioned officers within a brigade combat team. This often proves difficult for engineers since the brigade engineer battalion is relatively new to the Army. The difficulty in establishing and maintaining this network is amplified in a multinational unit due to language, cultural, doctrinal, and technical barriers.

The engineer working group must clearly establish methods to implement the breach tenets and apply the breach fundamentals while using the ABV as the primary platform for explosive and mechanical reduction. To do this, however, there must be a clear understanding of NATO and U.S. Army engineer doctrine, as outlined in Standardization Agreement (STANAG) 2485, Countermine Operations in Land, Warfare; STANAG 2036, Land Mine Laying,

Marking, Recording, and Reporting Procedures; and Army Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures 3-90.4, Combined Arms Mobility Operations. (6,7,8)

It is important to note that the types of breach operations, methods of breaching, and lane-marking standards vary slightly between NATO and U.S. doctrines. Specifically, the ABV automated lane-marking system would be superseded by manual lane-marking performed by dismounted Soldiers in accordance with NATO standards.

CARs. Arguably the most critical step in integrating the ABV into a multinational brigade that is preparing to conduct combined arms mobility operations is executing a CAR. The rehearsal serves as a coordination event in which "subordinate units synchronize their plans with each other" and ensure that "their plans achieve the higher commander's intent." (9,10)

Best practices indicate that successful CARs focus two echelons down. For example, a brigade CAR would review ? down to company level tasks, purposes, and scheme of maneuver. It is essential that the company and task force commanders who have ABVs task-organized to them synchronize the ABV employment by rehearsing, in detail, the timing and locations for lane reduction, reduction and proofing methods, marking standards, and reporting requirements. The detail required in the CAR is significant; the topics described here only highlight several key areas of emphasis. The ABV is a key component to combined arms mobility operations. The platform must be synchronized within the context of the larger operation, ensuring that all multinational partners understand the ABV techniques and procedures and where they fit into the fight.

The ABV will provide the multinational brigade with a significant capability to conduct combined arms breaching but will prove challenging to integrate unless engineer leaders and staff members can interoperate. The steps outlined in this article serve as a baseline for newly formed multinational brigades to follow when integrating ABVs, based on lessons learned and best practices at the JMRC.


(1) Speech by Major General Walter E. Piatt, quoted by Jim Garamone, "Reassurance, Interoperability Key for U.S. Army in Europe," DoD News, 16 October 2014, accessed on 15 January 2015, < .aspx?id=123432>.

(2) Ibid.

(3) STANAG 2485, Ed. 2, Countermine Operations in Land Warfare, 21 November 2003.

(4) Rand Corporation, "Interoperability," A Broad Definition of Interoperability, Chapter 2, accessed on 15 January 2015, < .html>.

(5) Lieutenant Colonel Jason A. Kirk and Captain Clint W. Brown, "Combined Arms Breaching in the Decisive Action Training Environment: Welcome Back to the Dance Floor," Engineer Magazine, September-December 2012.

(6) Ibid.

(7) STANAG 2485.

(8) STANAG 2036, Ed. 6, Land Mine Laying, Marking, Recording, and Reporting Procedures, 27 January 2005.

(9) Army Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures 3-90.4, Combined Arms Mobility Operations, 10 August 2011.

(10) Field Manual 6-0, Commanders and Staff Organization and Operations, 5 May 2014.

Captain Walton is an engineer observer-coach trainer at the JMRC. He commanded the first unit to field the ABV in the U.S. Army. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from Georgia State University and is pursuing a graduate degree.
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Author:Walton, James D.
Publication:Engineer: The Professional Bulletin for Army Engineers
Date:May 1, 2015
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