U.S. Army's Way Forward: 5 New Division Organizations


As the U.S. Army is refocusing on division-centric large scale combat operations (LSCO), it is planning on reviving the division as a proper tactical unit of action. From the late 2000s, the Brigade Combat Team had become the Army's units of action with full-spectrum combat support. At that time, divisions became primarily administrative bodies with little in the way of combat capabilities outside of the its BCTs and Aviation Brigades. Under this scheme, divisions became operational units of employment that wielded units of action (brigades) to achieve tactical outcomes. However, for the conventional wars that the U.S. Army sees itself fighting the future, larger units with capabilities aligned to conventional warfighting will be required. In a sense, divisions will themselves become units of action wielded by corps as units of employment.


To this end, TRADOC dropped a video in December 2021 that lays out five tentative division organizations that will replace the current state of modular division headquarters. Three will be specialized and will likely be few in number (the Penetration, JFE-Airborne and JFE-Air Assault Divisions), while two standard layouts will constitute the bulk of the Army's force structure (the Standard Division, Heavy and Standard Division, Light). The development of specialized divisions is so units are adequately aligned to certain operational niches, which they can then be equipped for and train to become particularly proficient in.


This article does not cover the numerous units which may be attached to divisions in direct or general support from the Corps-level.


Penetration Division

The Penetration Division is the heaviest of the types, with a clear focus on breakthrough operations (penetrating an enemy’s defensive line). Commensurate with this role, the division has a very large contingent of combat engineers and bridging equipment (for river crossings), the most capable artillery, and the heaviest mix of maneuver units.


The Maneuver includes 3 Armored Brigade Combat Teams. Each will include an HHC, 3 Combined Arms Battalions (CAB), 1 Armored Cavalry Troop, 1 Robot Combat Vehicle (RCV) Company, 1 Brigade Engineer Battalion, and 1 Brigade Support Battalion. The Combined Arms Battalions are intended to be a 2-to-2 mix of Armor and Mechanized Infantry Companies, undoing the 2016 change that turned CABs triangular. Additionally, the Armored Cavalry Troops will likely be composed of 2 Tank Platoons and 2 Bradley-mounted Scout Platoons.


Divisional Cavalry Squadrons are also making a comeback, with the Penetration Division receiving an Armored Cavalry Squadron. This squadron will include 3 Cavalry Troops (tank-integrated) and a Surveillance Company. It is unclear what the Surveillance Company will entail, but the most logical capabilities would either be Long-Range Surveillance (LRS) similar to U.S. Marine Division Reconnaissance or a multi-domain military intelligence unit.


The Fires includes an Artillery Brigade with 3 Field Artillery Battalions equipped with M109A7 155mm self-propelled howitzers and 1 Field Artillery Battalion equipped with the M1299 Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA). The latter is a 155mm self-propelled howitzer which pushes the M109A7’s 40 km effective range (with certain precision munitions) out to at least 70 km. The Artillery Brigade will also likely be responsible for commanding any artillery (such as MLRS or HIMARS) attached from Corps levels in direct support.


The Combat Support includes an Engineer Brigade and Protection Brigade. The Engineer Brigade is the beefiest of the division types, with 3 Engineer Battalions that control a total of 7 Combat Engineer Companies and 5 Bridging Companies. These elements, in addition to the brigades’ own engineer assets, will enhance the division’s ability to breach obstacles, perform counter-mobility operations, and make mass river crossings. The Protection Brigade meanwhile, which is a part of all divisions, will be responsible for rear area security. It will include an Engineer Battalion (presumably to prepare defenses in depth), Military Police Battalion, Air Defense Artillery Battalion (equipped with the Stryker-based M-SHORAD), CBRN Defense Battalion, and its own Support Battalion. M-SHORAD units may be attached to maneuver units to provide local air defense as required.


The Sustainment includes a Division Sustainment Brigade, which will consist of a Division Sustainment Support Battalion, Support Maintenance Company, Movement Control Company, and Quartermaster Company. Every other brigade in the division also has an organic Brigade Support Battalion.


The Aviation includes an Aviation Brigade (Heavy) with an Attack Helicopter Battalion, Assault Helicopter Battalion, Attack/Reconnaissance Squadron, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Company as its flying units.


Heavy Division

The Heavy Division will likely constitute the bulk of the U.S. Army’s armored forces. It will be less specialized in the breakthrough role than the Penetration Division (with fewer engineers and artillery units) and will retain a battalion-sized security and reconnaissance unit in each of its maneuver brigades. But, it is perhaps more flexible due to its larger complement of infantry which can help the division during defensive operations or operations in complex terrain.


The Maneuver includes 2 Armored Brigade Combat Teams and 1 Stryker Brigade Combat Team. The ABCTs are similar to those in the Penetration Division, but with an entire Armored Cavalry Squadron rather than just a troop. Unlike the Penetration Division, the Heavy Division lacks a divisional Cavalry Squadron. The SBCT meanwhile is composed of an HHC, 3 Stryker Infantry Battalions, 1 Stryker Cavalry Squadron, and 1 Brigade Support Battalion. The presence of the Strykers provides the Heavy Division with additional infantry mass carried in well-armed and moderately armored carriers. This brings benefits for operations in complex terrain (including urban environments) where dismounted bayonet strength is at a premium, and during defensive operations. But, at the same time, the Stryker platform offers greater protection and firepower than the lightly motorized IBCTs.


The Fires includes an Artillery Brigade with 2 Field Artillery Battalions equipped with M109A7 155mm self-propelled howitzers (aligned to the mobility requirements of the ABCTs) and 1 Field Artillery Battalion equipped with the truck-mounted Next Generation Howitzer (NGH) 155mm self-propelled howitzer (aligned to the SBCT).


The Combat Support includes an Engineer Battalion and Protection Brigade. The Engineer Battalion has a total of 5 Combat Engineer Companies. The Protection Brigade which will be the same as previously stated.


The Sustainment includes a Division Sustainment Brigade, which will be the same as previously stated.


The Aviation includes an Aviation Brigade (Heavy) with an Attack Helicopter Battalion, Assault Helicopter Battalion, Attack/Reconnaissance Squadron, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Company as its flying units.


Light Division

The Light Division will likely be the most numerous division in the U.S. Army, accounting for the majority of the non-airborne/air assault Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs). They will be notable for their light motorized infantry mounted in the Infantry Squad Vehicle (ISV), Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) or MRAP depending on the unit and need.


The Maneuver includes 3 Infantry Brigade Combat Teams and 1 Tank Battalion (MPF). The IBCTs are triangular, with 3 Infantry Battalions supported by 1 Cavalry Troop, 1 Military Intelligence Company, 1 Signal Company, and a Brigade Support Battalion. The WayPoint announcement did not include any intermediary Brigade Engineer Battalion (BEB) that currently holds the MI and Signal Company, nor a Special Troops Battalion. This implies these two companies will be directly under the commander organizationally and potentially co-located with the Brigade HHC.


Meanwhile, the return of the divisional tank battalion is interesting. This is the intended niche of the Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) vehicle, a light tank with moderate armor protection and a 105mm gun. This platform will likely not be employed like a main battle tank doctrinally due to its inferior protection and firepower (unable to reliably kill the most modern tanks). Rather, we are assuming it will be employed more like a Stryker MGS, providing infantry with direct fire support against structures, personnel and light vehicles and augmenting the brigades’/division’s security and reconnaissance units.


The Fires includes an Artillery Brigade with 3 Field Artillery Battalions equipped with towed howitzers. In the current IBCT, Field Artillery Battalions consist of 1 towed 155mm howitzer battery and 2 towed 105mm howitzer batteries. It is currently unclear whether this mix will be changed, or if they will be replaced. Although the Army is eyeing a truck-mounted self-propelled 155mm howitzer to align with Stryker units, it’s unclear whether this will replace the M777 in divisions with IBCTs. It is also unclear whether the 105mm light gun will get a replacement. The Army has been testing the Humvee-mouned self-propelled 105mm Hawkeye, but they've only been informal as of yet.


The Combat Support includes an Engineer Battalion and Protection Brigade. The Engineer Battalion has a total of 5 Combat Engineer Companies. The Protection Brigade which will be the same as previously stated.


The Sustainment includes a Division Sustainment Brigade, which will be the same as previously stated.


The Aviation includes an Aviation Brigade (Light) with an Attack Helicopter Battalion, 2 Assault Helicopter Battalions, Attack/Reconnaissance Squadron, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Company as its flying units.


Joint Forcible Entry Division - Airborne

The Joint Forcible Entry Division-Airborne will be very similar to the Light Division, but with a focus on airborne operations. This entails airborne-qualified infantry that can be delivered behind enemy lines via parachute. It is a fairly safe assumption that the 82nd Airborne Division will be on this organization. Due to the regionally-aligned nature of the Army's separate airborne brigades (the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Europe and 4th BCT (Airborne), 25ID in the Pacific) we highly doubt a second airborne division will be created.


Other than airborne qualification, the main difference from the Light Division is the inclusion of a divisional Cavalry Squadron (possibly because an airborne division dropped behind enemy lines has heightened security and reconnaissance requirements). This squadron will have 3 Cavalry Troops and a Surveillance Company.


Of note, the new Infantry Squad Vehicle (ISV) is able to be paradropped out of a C-130 or C-17. However, the light tanks within the divisional MPF Tank Battalion can only be airlanded as there is no paradrop requirement in the program.


Joint Forcible Entry Division - Air Assault

The Joint Forcible Entry Division-Air Assault is the heliborne counterpart to the Airborne Division. Other thanthe air assault qualification as opposed to airborne qualification, the Air Assault DIvision will also have an additional General Support Aviation Battalion in its Aviation Brigade (Medium) which includes cargo helicopters. This gives the Air Assault Division the largest Aviation Brigade of any of the division types (although still smaller than the 101st Airborne's 8-battalion Aviation Brigade circa 1989).


Of note, the new Infantry Squad Vehicle (ISV) is able to be sling-loaded by UH-60 and CH-47s helicopters, and internally loaded within the CH-47.



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