Small Wars Journal

urban operations

Every City is Different. That’s Why a One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Urban Operations Won’t Work.

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 1:09pm

Every City is Different. That’s Why a One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Urban Operations Won’t Work. By John Spencer and John Amble - Modern War Institute

If we are entering an era where military forces will increasingly be called upon to operate in cities (and we are), it follows logically that the Army should begin preparing for urban terrain. But a quick scan of the global contemporary operating environment reveals the extraordinary diversity of urban landscapes. So what types of cities should we focus on?

Over the last few years, there has been growing attention within the US military on megacities—cities with ten million or more inhabitants. In 2014, the Army conducted a yearlong research project on megacities, which concluded that it is “ill-prepared” to operate—essentially, to conduct any mission—in a megacity. Other scholars have argued that mid-sized or even smaller cities are more important, especially if they’re perceived as likely spots of future military action. But while both individuals and centers within the Army continue to write, conduct research, produce studies, and hold conferences on the problems associated with operating in major cities, too little effort has been directed toward examining which specific cities around the globe the US military should pay closest attention to.

Many senior military and national security leaders have acknowledged both the military’s need to prepare for major military operations in cities, big and small, and its current inadequate capabilities. The current commander of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, Gen. Stephen Townsend, believes that “we’re going to see battle in megacities and there’s little way to avoid it.” In a similar vein, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley has said, “It’s obvious you can’t predict the future with certainty, but there are certain things that I feel confident that we can articulate and we know will probably be true. . . . [The world is] rapidly urbanizing. . . . We need to man, organize, train, and equip the force for operations in urban areas, highly dense urban areas, and that’s a different construct. We’re not organized like that right now.”

But the sheer diversity among the world’s cities makes such preparation challenging. Yes, they have similarities, but each has remarkably individual qualities…

Read on.

Army’s ‘Google Earth on Steroids’ to Include Inside of Buildings

Army’s ‘Google Earth on Steroids’ to Include Inside of Buildings by Stew Magnuson - National Defense Magazine

The Army’s ambitious plan to re-create the world in fine resolution for its new training and simulation program will include the inside of buildings, a researcher working on the program said May 15.

The Synthetic Training Environment intends to train all warfighting functions as well as the human dimensions of warfare, which include interacting with locals. It will be flexible, support repetition and be available at the point of need, according to the Army. Current training and simulation systems are not interoperable, affordable or realistic enough, the Army has said. To get at the latter problem, the service wants to create One World Terrain software to duplicate complex environments including large cities.

Terrain capture and reconstruction will allow soldiers to further gather information and make more detailed simulations of their environments, said Jason Knowles, director of geospatial science and technology at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technology, an Army affiliated research center. The institute is part of a cross-functional team working on the One World Terrain project…

Read on.

SWJED Sun, 05/19/2019 - 11:07am

Philippine Forces Cleared this City of Islamist Militants in 2017. It’s Still a Ghost Town.

Sat, 02/02/2019 - 1:17am

Philippine Forces Cleared this City of Islamist Militants in 2017. It’s Still a Ghost Town. Story by Shibani Mahtani and Regine Cabato, Photos by Hannah Reyes Morales, Video by Jason Aldag – Washington Post

At the edge of a bridge leading into the heart of the devastation from a 2017 siege against Islamic State-linked militants, an electric-blue billboard stands apart from the ruins.

“Marawi will rise again! Soon . . .” it proudly declares in rainbow-colored letters.


So far, it sounds like an empty promise.


More than a year since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared the city liberated, Marawi looks almost as it did when the bombs and bullets stopped flying in October 2017, following five months of urban combat.


Not a single new structure has been built. Almost none of the debris has been cleared. Snakes and mosquitoes infest the bright-green canopy of weeds engulfing the ruins. The odd stray dog has taken refuge inside battle-ravaged buildings.


About 100,000 people displaced from the Marawi violence are unable to return home, living with relatives or in camps across the southern island of Mindanao. This predominantly Muslim region has seen clashes for decades between Philippine security forces and various groups of insurgents and militants, including the Abu Sayyaf.


Marawi, however, stands apart…

Read on.

New SWJ Book - Blood and Concrete: 21st Century Conflict in Urban Centers and Megacities

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 3:35pm
Just released - "Blood and Concrete: 21st Century Conflict in Urban Centers and Megacities" provides a foundation for understanding urban operations and sustaining urban warfare research. This "Small Wars Journal" (SWJ) Anthology documents over a decade of writings on urban conflict.

About the Author(s)

“Fragile” Cities: What We are Getting Wrong and Why it is Important to Get it Right SWJED Mon, 11/05/2018 - 12:50am
To map potential scenarios resulting from risks associated with contemporary challenges, we need to consider alternative explanations to scarcity-induced contention and dystopic visions of conflict in cities.

SWJ Book Review – “Underground Warfare”

Fri, 09/21/2018 - 12:34am
Tunnel warfare is now becoming a contemporary concern as seen in its use by AQIM (al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb) in Mali, and by Hamas for smuggling, terrorism, and increasingly as a means of urban warfare in Gaza, Syria, and Iraq. Among other things, underground warfare is likely to merge with urban operations and proliferate in the megacity battles of tomorrow. Richemond-Barak does an excellent job of building a foundation for addressing these tactical, operational, and strategic challenges.

About the Author(s)

Surrounded, Yet Unaware: Achieving Isolation in Future Urban Terrain

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 10:09am
This article identifies future complications in achieving physical and psychological isolation, which both historically and doctrinally are so essential to successfully achieving military objectives in urban terrain. Furthermore, this article outlines tactical leader application of a new urban operational framework to understand and achieve both physical and psychological isolation in this future environment.

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A Flexible Data-Centric Approach for Modeling and Analyzing Hyper Connected Megacities SWJED Fri, 07/14/2017 - 6:27am

TRADOC Mad Scientist Project: Megacities - or more generally Dense Urban Areas - will emerge at the epicenter of future events necessitating military intervention.