By Jennifer Dunn
The U.S. Army has spent the past four years grappling with its role in confronting adversaries in joint multi-domain operations (MDO). In the future the U.S. military will be confronted with a battlespace where it will be contested by adversaries across all domains, no longer assured freedom of action in the air, space, maritime, and cyber domains. The Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) is helping the Army prepare for this environment through its training, education, and development of both today’s and tomorrow’s force.
The TRADOC G-2, as the Army’s proponent for developing and approving the operational environment (OE) for training and opposing force (OPFOR) doctrine, is chartered with continuous analysis of peer, near-peer, and other potential threats. This analysis ensures Army training, now and into the future, is relevant and representative of the kinds of actions our adversaries will take to challenge us in MDO. The fruits of TRADOC G-2’s continuous analysis are two series of doctrinal publications. The first, Training Circular (TC) 7-100 series, includes manuals designed to provide the U.S. Army training community a challenging, realistic adversary for training events. The second, Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 7-100 series, includes four manuals designed to provide the Army with official unclassified assessments of real-world adversaries’ tactics, applicable for both training environments and real-world threat analysis.
Figure 1: OPFOR Source Comparison
TC 7-100 Series: Threat Best Practices for OPFOR Doctrine
The TC 7-100 series comprises six publications, produced to inform U.S. Army training exercises by facilitating exercise design and Army learning (TCs 7-101 and 7-102), and providing instructions on how the Army OPFOR should operate in a training environment where the ‘enemy’ is the U.S. Army (TCs 7-100, 7-100.2, 7-100.3 and 7-100.4). The latter books are the Army’s official doctrinal support material for threat representation in training events. These manuals, in particular TC 7-100.2 Opposing Force Tactics and TC 7-100.3 Irregular Opposing Forces, herein referred to as OPFOR Doctrine, provide Army OPFOR practitioners with details on how a composite model threat actor would execute tactics and techniques if the United States were the enemy.
OPFOR Doctrine, while not directly labeled or tied to any specific threat actor, is informed by threat analysis. These books were created through an intensive review of the tactics of state and non-state actors from around the globe for the sole purpose of identifying the best practices of those actors’ tactics. It is important to understand this concept: The OPFOR Doctrine composite model is not a threat model made up by intelligence specialists in the TRADOC G2, but rather a model that is representative of the world’s best tactical practices; an exemplar of the most dangerous adversary the United States could face in a tactical fight.
TRADOC G-2 created this composite model for two reasons: (1) To capture the types of actions executed by actors around the world that represent best tactical practices and (2) to provide the U.S. Army an opposing force capable of challenging every task a U.S. Army Brigade (BDE) is expected to conduct. Finding one single actor in the real-world that has the equipment and organization and executes tactics in a way that can adequately challenge the task proficiency of a BDE has historically not been possible. For this reason, training events that are focused on task proficiency should reference the OPFOR Doctrine manuals because the composite model, as an optimized adversary, best yields maximum task proficiency.
ATP 7-100 Series: Threat Tactics Doctrine
While the Army needs an OPFOR doctrine that is representative of the most challenging adversary it could expect to encounter in order to yield an exceptionally proficient force, there is a need to also have unclassified assessments of how specific threat actors would execute tactics and techniques. These assessments would provide the Army with an understanding of the nuanced differences between actor application of tactics and techniques, in particular the application of those tactics and techniques in a conflict with the U.S. Army.
TRADOC G-2 is currently undertaking an initiative to produce Threat Tactics Doctrine in order to deliver this information to the Army. This doctrine, found in the ATP 7-100 Series, will provide the Army with official unclassified assessments of projected tactics from four countries. The publications that make up this series are ATP 7-100.1 Russian Tactics, ATP 7-100.2 North Korean Tactics, ATP 7-100.3 Chinese Tactics, and ATP 7-100.4 Iranian Tactics.
These four tactical assessments all contain roughly the same kind of information: introductions to the actors’ national strategies, descriptions of how they perceive their place on the international (and/or regional) stage, overviews of their entire military force, details on their ground forces’ organizations, and in-depth reviews of the tactical actions their ground forces are likely to employ in conflict with the United States. While some of the material can be found in other U.S. government publications, these manuals are unique in the level of detail dedicated to exploring how these actors would likely approach specific types of tactical actions if confronted with U.S. Army formations enabled by joint MDO capabilities as an enemy.
Due to the actor-specific focus of these ATPs, they are not as suited to be broadly used in Decisive Action training events that need to challenge task proficiency as is the TC series of OPFOR Doctrine. Rather, these manuals serve as source material of specific actor tactics and techniques that can be used to challenge U.S. Army adversary-focused readiness. They are best suited for use in mission rehearsal exercises or other training events where success of U.S. forces is dependent upon familiarity with a specific threat. The ATP series of Threat Doctrine is designed to provide that familiarity with a specific threat’s tactics and techniques, the sum of which may not challenge all U.S. tasks.
The ATP series also serves another function for the U.S. Army. As the Army’s official unclassified doctrinal source of the tactics of countries like North Korea, China, Russia, and Iran, this material serves as a foundational baseline assessment for each actor. These assessments are based on the most up-to-date information available and have been vetted by subject matter experts within the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community ensuring their veracity and applicability to the Army training and intelligence audiences. Additionally, the material in the ATPs serves as a starting point for the concept and capabilities development community. The ATPs, in conjunction with TRADOC G-2's Battlefield Development Plans, have informed TRADOC and Army Futures Command’s simulations and tests that will drive changes to the Army’s future force as it prepares for joint MDO.
Unlike the already published TC series, the ATP series is currently in production with the first due to be published, distribution unlimited, in the summer of 2021. This first published ATP will be ATP 7-100.3 Chinese Tactics. As of the writing of this article, ATP 7-100.2 North Korean Tactics is in its final approval stage and is expected to be released by this fall. All ATPs will be digitally published by the Army Publishing Directorate (APD) available for mass consumption, accessible through APD’s website. The next ATP delivered to the force will be ATP 7-100.1 Russian Tactics followed by ATP 7-100.4 Iranian Tactics; both books are being drafted and should be available in early 2022. After drafts are complete, both the Iran and Russia publications will be staffed during the world-wide staffing phase of the Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate’s publishing process; those interested in participating in the review of these manuals should get in touch with the element of their command that distributes Army doctrine staffing.
Many of the manuals in the TC series of doctrine are nearing their ten-year anniversary and, over the past several years, in particular throughout the duration of the production of the ATPs, TRADOC G-2 has been collecting material to inform updates to the books in this series of manuals. Right now, an update is underway for TC 7-101 Exercise Design Guide, and an update to FM 7-100.1 Opposing Force Operations is in the planning stages (this is the only OPFOR doctrinal publication that is an FM instead of a TC). TRADOC G-2 will continue to consider and plan updates to the OPFOR doctrine to ensure the Army’s OPFOR training materials still provide the most robust and dangerous enemy the Army could face in a tactical fight.
In order for the Army to remain ahead of its adversaries, training against a robust, realistic threat for task proficiency is essential. It is also essential for the Army, especially the elements that are regionally aligned, to thoroughly understand the adversary they are most likely to encounter in future conflicts. Collectively, the TC and ATP series of doctrine provide the Army the most up-to-date realistic unclassified threat material needed to enable success in future conflicts against any enemy.
1The TRADOC G-2 Battlefield Development plans are classified analytic assessments of Russian and Chinese systems warfare. These were deliberately produced to support TRADOC concept and capabilities development in light of joint MDO.
For more information, or support from TRADOC G-2, please contact Angela M. Williams, email@example.com Produced by the US Army TRADOC G-2 Operational Environment and Threat Analysis Directorate