Assessing Foreign Military Thought About Urban Warfare

DoD photo by Sgt. Thomas W. Ammons, U.S. Army.
Polish Capt. Andrzaj Stanek (right) instructs the Lithuanian soldiers of Training
Company 1 at the Military Operations in Urban Terrain facility during 
Exercise Cooperative Osprey '98 on June 6, 1998,  
at Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, N.C. 

One part of the Arroyo Center's overall urban warfare research agenda for FY00 is the project entitled, "Assessing Foreign Military Thought About Urban Warfare." This project is being sponsored by the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (DCSINT). Its purpose is to enhance the U.S. Army's preparations for military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) by improving its understanding of foreign planning for MOUT.

The project's scope is broad in that it assesses developments abroad across the entire spectrum of urban operations, ranging from terrorism at the low end to full-scale conventional warfare at the high end. Also, the research is not limited to MOUT thinking in foreign nation-state militaries. Considerable attention is being paid to MOUT thought and practice in non-state actors (e.g., terrorist groups, guerrilla fronts, religious movements) as well.

The Foreign MOUT Thought study has three principal objectives:

  • First, it seeks to identify those states and non-state actors that are devoting significant time and energy to the study of, and training for, urban operations. Regional experts are being used to survey the state of MOUT thought and practice in the Former Soviet Union, Middle East/Persian Gulf, South Asia, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and East Asia.
  • Second, the project attempts to identify possible pathways of MOUT "knowledge transmission" from those actors that are studying MOUT seriously to other actors, some of which lack dedicated MOUT programs.
  • Third, this research is attempting to draw out the implications of MOUT developments abroad for the U.S. and its allies and coalition partners.

In order to integrate the project's different regional analyses, researchers have developed a simple graphical framework for mapping the state of MOUT thinking around the globe. It involves the use of different symbols to differentiate between four different types of foreign actors with respect to MOUT doctrine and thought: major producers, minor producers, active consumers, and passive consumers. Also included in the graphical framework is a set of arrows of varying thickness that illustrate different rates of transmission of MOUT knowledge between those pairs of actors abroad who have a military to military relationship that likely includes an urban operations component. Some of these MOUT cooperative relationships are unidirectional, others are bidirectional.

Three different rates of MOUT transmission are presented in the project framework: established client relationships, situation specific relationships, and sporadic contacts. The graphical combination of levels of MOUT thought and MOUT transmission types should allow researchers to present a comprehensive, easy-to-understand world map of MOUT programs and knowledge flows.

There are several potential benefits to this work. From the standpoint of the intelligence analyst interested in MOUT developments abroad, it should help to establish collection and analysis priorities. Those concerned with future U.S. Army doctrine will be able to gain a better perspective on the likely role of MOUT in the respective strategies of hostile non-state actors, regional powers, and large powers.

Finally, ground warfare technologists will be able to draw upon this work to help identify those areas of MOUT-relevant technology that will have the widest applicability for U.S. forces across regions during the next two decades.