Military Organization > United States > ​​U.S. Army Combined Arms Battalion (2016) 

U.S. Army Combined Arms Battalion (2016) 

By Brendan Matsuyama, Editor

The following is an overview of the current Combined Arms Battalion (CAB) of the U.S. Army Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT) as of 2016. These are the core maneuver battalions of the ABCT and are the U.S. Army's primary mechanized infantry and armor battalions.

Changes were made to the CAB in 2016, taking the battalion from 4 companies to 3 companies with 2 variations. One variation is biased towards armor while the other is biased towards infantry. An ABCT will have 1 Infantry CAB and 2 Armor CABs. This article covers both.

 

The next level up is the Armored Brigade Combat Team which consists of 1 Headquarters, 3 Combined Arms Battalions (this), 1 Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1 Cavalry Squadron, 1 Field Artillery Battalion, and 1 Brigade Support Battalion.

Contents:

  1. Organization

  2. Discussion

  3. Sources

Combined Arms Battalion Orgs-01.png
 

1× Headquarters & Headquarters Company (HHC)

  • 1× Command Group​​ — 12 Officers, 24 Enlisted

    • 1× Intelligence Section (S2)

    • 1× Operations Section (S3)

    • 1× Fire Support Section

    • 1× Liaison Officer (LNO)

    • 1× Tactical Air Control Party (USAF Personnel)

  • 1× Combat Trains — 5 Officers, 22 Enlisted

    • 1× Personnel Section (S1)

    • 1× Logistics Section (S4)

    • 1× Communication Section (S6)

    • 1× Unit Ministry Team (UMT)

  • 1× Retransmission Team — 3 Enlisted

  • 1× Scout Platoon — 1 Officer, 35 Enlisted

  • 1× Heavy Mortar Platoon — 1 Officer, 23 Enlisted

  • 1× Sniper Squad — 10 Enlisted

  • 1× Medical Treatment Platoon — 4 Officers, 34 Enlisted

  • 1× Mine Roller Section — 1 Enlisted

  • 1× Company Headquarters — 2 Officers, 5 Enlisted
     

  • 1× Attached Fire Support Cell* — 3 Officers, 21 Enlisted

  • 1× Attached Fire Support Platoon** — 2 Officers, 5 Enlisted

*​Attached from Field Artillery Battalion. Attached Fire Support Cell is with the Command Group Fire Support Section when deployed.

**Attached from Field Artillery Battalion.

Mechanized Rifle Companies

  • 1× Company Headquarters — 2 Officers, 10 Enlisted

  • 3× Rifle Platoons — 1 Officer, 40 Enlisted each

1× Armor Company

  • 1× Company Headquarters — 2 Officers, 12 Enlisted

  • 3× Tank Platoons — 1 Officer, 15 Enlisted each

1× Forward Support Company*

  • 1× Company Headquarters — 2 Officers, 3 Enlisted

  • 1× Field Feeding Section — 15 Enlisted

  • 1× Distribution Platoon — 1 Officer, 30 Enlisted

  • 1× Maintenance Platoon — 2 Officers, 1 Warrant Officer, 86 Enlisted

*​Attached from Brigade Support Battalion.

Combined Arms Battalion (Infantry)

  • Type: Combined Arms Battalion

  • Origin: U.S. Army (United States)

  • Integral Personnel: 40 Officers and 474 Enlisted

  • Attached Personnel: 10 Officers, 1 WO, 161 Enlisted

 

1× Headquarters & Headquarters Company (HHC)

  • 1× Command Group​​ — 12 Officers, 24 Enlisted

    • 1× Intelligence Section (S2)

    • 1× Operations Section (S3)

    • 1× Fire Support Section

    • 1× Liaison Officer (LNO)

    • 1× Tactical Air Control Party (USAF Personnel)

  • 1× Combat Trains — 5 Officers, 22 Enlisted

    • 1× Personnel Section (S1)

    • 1× Logistics Section (S4)

    • 1× Communication Section (S6)

    • 1× Unit Ministry Team (UMT)

  • 1× Retransmission Team — 3 Enlisted

  • 1× Scout Platoon — 1 Officer, 35 Enlisted

  • 1× Heavy Mortar Platoon — 1 Officer, 23 Enlisted

  • 1× Sniper Squad — 10 Enlisted

  • 1× Medical Treatment Platoon — 4 Officers, 32 Enlisted

  • 2× Mine Roller Sections — 1 Enlisted each

  • 1× Company Headquarters — 2 Officers, 5 Enlisted
     

  • 1× Attached Fire Support Cell* — 3 Officers, 21 Enlisted

  • 1× Attached Fire Support Platoon** — 2 Officers, 5 Enlisted

*​Attached from Field Artillery Battalion.

 Attached Fire Support Cell is with the Command Group Fire Support Sect. when deployed.

**Attached from Field Artillery Battalion.

1× Mechanized Rifle Company

  • 1× Company Headquarters — 2 Officers, 10 Enlisted

  • 3× Rifle Platoons — 1 Officer, 40 Enlisted each

2× Armor Companies

  • 1× Company Headquarters — 2 Officers, 12 Enlisted

  • 3× Tank Platoons — 1 Officer, 15 Enlisted each

1× Forward Support Company*

  • 1× Company Headquarters — 2 Officers, 2 Enlisted

  • 1× Field Feeding Section — 15 Enlisted

  • 1× Distribution Platoon — 1 Officer, 30 Enlisted

  • 1× Maintenance Platoon — 2 Officers, 1 Warrant Officer, 91 Enlisted

*​Attached from Brigade Support Battalion.

Combined Arms Battalion (Armor)

  • Type: Combined Arms Battalion

  • Origin: U.S. Army (United States)

  • Integral Personnel: 40 Officers and 400 Enlisted

  • Attached Personnel: 10 Officers, 1 WO, 161 Enlisted

 

Discussion

The Combined Arms Battalion (CAB) is the primary maneuver unit of the Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT; Heavy Brigade Combat Team before 2012). Since 2016, the CAB has had a hetergenous organization within ABCTs. Prior, CABs consisted principally of 2 Armor Companies and 2 Mechanized Infantry Rifle Companies. Following, CABs either consist of 1 Armor Company and 2 Mechanized Rifle Companies or 2 Armor Companies and 1 Mechanized Rifle Company. There are typically 1 of the former and 2 of the latter type per ABCT. The most noteworthy features of the CAB are the M1A1/M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks and M2A3 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, composing the US Army's main armored force. As such, Armored BCTs are more oriented towards high-intensity, conventional warfare, although they did operate in Iraq in a counter-insurgency capacity following the initial invasion.

 

The ABCT is the heaviest basic unit of maneuver within the US Army. Their tracked armored vehicles compare to the wheeled Stryker BCT (motorized infantry with potential upgrade to mechanized infantry through Dragoon upgrades) and Infantry BCTs (who are organizationally footmobile with potential for motorization with light trucks or MRAPs when in theatre). This means CABs have the most firepower of any of the other BCT maneuver battalions and are very tactically mobile (especially when compared to Infantry BCTs). However, the logistical burden of a large amount of armored vehicles increases costs and reduces deployability. Further, many of the Armored BCTs advantages are negated by complex terrain. Deployability concerns can be mitigated by planning and by virtue of the fact that large conventional operations that'd explicitly require an Armored BCT would typically be heavily supported (and thus require a large airlift and/or sealift effort anyways) and have significant time in preparation. For more urgent, rapid reaction type scenarios that require immediate airlift delivery, an Infantry BCT would be more appropriate. In terms of deployability and firepower, the Stryker BCTs are essentially a middle of the road intermediary between the Infantry and Armored BCTs.

The Combined Arms Battalion consists of a Battalion HHC (headquarters and headquarters company), 3 maneuver companies, and a Forward Support Company attached from the Armored BCT's Brigade Support Battalion. The battalion comes under the overall command of a Lieutenant Colonel.

The Battalion HHC serves as the primary command and combat support element of the CAB, as well as providing combat service functions and leadership. One of the distinct features of CABs versus legacy tank or mechanized battalions is the presence of both armor and infantry leadership in the battalion. In both Armor and Infantry CABs, the Battalion Commander is allotted an Abrams main battle tank for combat (presumably so they are not limited by the lesser protection of the M2A3 Bradley if they need to travel with an Armor Company). The HHC includes an important portion of the Combat Trains, as well as a Scout Platoon (in HMMVW trucks and M3A3 Bradleys), 120mm Heavy Mortars, Sniper Squad, and Medical Treatment Platoon with M113 ambulances and combat medics to be attached to the companies. There is also 1 Mine Roller Section per Armor Company, which consist of an M916A1 tractor and semi-trailer for hauling 3 mine clearing blades and 1 mine clearing roller for attachment to Abrams tanks. Three Bradleys with fire support personnel and forward observers are also typically attached from the brigade's Field Artillery Battalion to be attached to the maneuver companies. A Company Intelligence Support Team (COIST) is also typically attached to the battalion intelligence staff from the brigade Military Intelligence Company (BEB) with a Company Intelligence Analyst) being made available to each company.

The Forward Support Company (FSC) attached from the Brigade Service Battalion provides additional combat service support. This includes a Field Feeding Section (battalion mess), ammunition/equipment/petrol distribution services, field maintenance, and armored recovery. Field Maintenance Teams can be attached from the FSC to Armor and Mechanized Infantry Company trains for second-line maintenance and recovery. These teams include an M88A2 IRV "Hercules" recovery vehicle (for Armor Companies) or M88A1 Medium recovery vehicle (for Mechanized Infantry Companies), an M7 Forward Repair System mounted on a PLS Transporter, an M984A1 HEMTT Wrecker, an M1084 cargo truck, and 2 HMMVW trucks. Key personnel include a Motor Sergeant, general mechanics, Abrams systems specialists, Bradley mechanics, and wheeled vehicle mechanics. 

The CAB's maneuver elements are the mechanized infantry Rifle Company and Armor Company. We have dedicated articles on these formations you can read if you want to know exactly what personnel each type of company has, but the Sparknotes is Rifle Companies are mechanized infantry mounted in M2A3 Bradleys and Armor Companies are M1A2 or M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks. Both companies are broadly organized the same, with 1 Company Headquarters (2 armored fighting vehicles each) and 3 Platoons (with 4 vehicles each). Supporting non-combat elements in their Company Headquarters are broadly identical. A Company Intelligence Analyst, Emergency Care/Combat Medic personnel, and a Fire Support Team (FIST) with their own Bradley are typically attached to maneuver companies. In some cases the FIST's Bradley can replaced the integral M113 as a mobile armored command post. For Armor Companies, a Field Maintenance Team is usually attached. The CAB commander may task organize their Rifle Companies and Armor Companies into Armor and Mechanized Infantry Company Teams, forming ad hoc combined arms companies able to conduct a wide range of close combat missions.

 

Such task organizations can be used to negate the disadvantages inherent to infantry and tanks through mutual combined arms support. One of the most significant issues the Company Team addresses is the tank's limited use in retaining ground that has been taken and more limited situational awareness during security; roles more suited to the infantry. Infantry are also more well suited to assymetrical threats and are generally more versatile in their delivery, while tanks have the advantage in lethality and survivability.

 

At the same time, there has been concern raised by some that the reorganization of specialist battalions into combined arms battalions reduces the core competency of the unit as a whole. The fact that US Army officers cycle out of tactical command billets into non-tactical staff positions outside of an ABCT periodically, thus reducing the time an officer can gain competency and hone skill, is reduced. This contrasts with the Russian system, where tactical commanders typically don't cycle through non-tactical staff positions. Further, because Russian brigades retain pure battalions, there is a clear throughline from tank platoon leader, to the tank company, to the tank battalion. Thus, a Russian battalion commander typically has more experience as a commanding officer or deputy commanding officer in their specific competency than their American equivalent. It could be argued that CABs combine two types of units with very different training and sustainment requirements under the command of individuals that may or may not have significant experience in either the armor or mechanized infantry fields. This presents the interesting question of whether the close integration of the CAB is superior or inferior to pure Tank Battalions and Mechanized Infantry Battalions that can train in their own domains and be task organized at the brigade-level with other types of companies when needed. 

Comparable Units Abroad

  • The Russian Grounds Forces don't typically operate combined arms battalions on a permanent basis, but brigades usually deploy their subunits as either ad hoc, combined arms Battalion Tactical Groups (BTG) or Company Tactical Groups (CTG). The BTG is the most directly applicable comparison, typically being a reinforced Motorized Rifle Battalion or Tank Battalion with a reinforcing Tank or Motorized Rifle Company respectively and additional brigade-level fires and sustainment. While it appears to be a goal for the Russians to make its brigades entirely deployable as 2-3 BTGs, unlike the American case it seems as though the choice of deploying only 1/3rd of the brigade maneuver elements is at least partially influenced by manpower concerns. The BTG isn't a new concept in the Russian practice, however, originating within the Forward Detachments of Soviet Motorized Rifle or Tank Regiments and organized in a similar manner.

  • The Swedish Army's Mechanized Battalions are organized similarly to the pre-2016 CAB, with 2 Tank Companies mounted in Strv 122 tanks and 2 Mechanized Companies mounted in Strf 9040.

  • The equivalent concept in the British Army is the Battlegroup, which are task organized formations formed around either an Infantry Battalion or Armoured Regiment (different terminology, but both battalion sized) within an Armoured Infantry Brigade. Unlike CABs these are not permanent formations and can be reformed at the brigade-level to meet different threats. Armoured Brigades would probably have about 3 to 4 Battlegroups depending on composition. A possible example composition could be 2 Armoured Infantry Companies (see our article on the platoon) and 1 Armored Squadron. These could also be formed with Heavy Protected Mobility Infantry Companies, with each brigade typically having 1 Armoured Regiment, 2 Armoured Infantry Battalions, and 1 Heavy Protected Mobility Battalion.

  • The French Army's equivalent is the Combined Arms Battle Group (Groupement tactique interarmes or GTIA) which are essentially regiments (battalion-sized formations) reinforced with other combat arms and fires/sustainment from the brigade-level. The infantry-dominant versions are structured basically as 3 infantry companies and 1 tank company. The Battle Group is the first level at which combined arms formations take place.

 

Sources

  • MCoE Supplemental Manual 3-90 Force Structure Reference Data "Armored Brigade Combat Team" published October 2016

  • ATP 3-90.1 "Armor and Mechanized Infantry Company Team" published January 2016

  • FM 3-96 "Brigade Combat Team" published October 2015

  • Norris, Pete (2016) "Maximizing the Lethality of Armored Forces" published on The Strategy Brigade

"The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious."

      - Marcus Aurelius

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