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This excellent report has been professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction. The airborne concept has had a lasting impact on military force structures since its employment on a large scale during World War II. It is puzzling to consider how little airborne organizational structures and employment concepts have changed in the intervening seven decades, considering the great amount of change occurring in warfare. This thesis examines the future potential of airborne concepts by rethinking traditional airborne organizational structures and employment concepts. Using a holistic approach in the areas of organization, doctrine, technology, and strategy as guiding frames of reference, this thesis recommends updating the organizational structures of airborne forces to model a "small and many" approach over a "large and few" approach, while incorporating a "swarming" concept. Utilizing historical and contemporary vignettes to demonstrate airborne utility, this research reveals how a parachute capability displays the unique attributes to complement a swarming concept. Under an updated organizational structure and new employment concept, airborne forces can offer renewed relevancy to the U.S. Department of Defense against modern adversaries in crises and conflict.
CHAPTER I - INTRODUCTION * A. ODTS METHODOLOGY * B. THESIS ORGANIZATION * CHAPTER II - IDENTIFYING THE ROLES OF AIRBORNE FORCES: ORGANIZATION AND DOCTRINE * A. TAXONOMY OF AIRBORNE ROLES * 1. Conventional Airborne Forces * 2. Special Operations Forces * 3. Roles for Airborne Forces * B. THE UTILITY OF SMALL-SCALE AIRBORNE FORCES * 1. Reconnaissance * 2. Raids * 3. Special Warfare * 4. Summary of Small-scale Airborne Operations * C. THE UTILITY OF LARGE-SCALE AIRBORNE OPERATIONS * 1. Seize * 2. Show of Force * 3. Reinforce * 4. Summary of Large-scale Airborne Operations * D. CURRENT OPERATING ENVIRONMENT * 1. State Actor Threats * 2. Non-state Actors * 3. Summary of Current Operating Environment * E. SUMMARY OF AIRBORNE ROLES * CHAPTER III - THE TECHNOLOGICAL FRAME OF REFERENCE * A. BROAD TECHNOLOGICAL FRAME OF REFERENCE * B. NARROW TECHNOLOGICAL FRAME OF REFERENCE * 1. Airborne Technological Vulnerabilities * 2. Airborne Technological Capabilities * C. CONCLUSION * CHAPTER IV - AIRBORNE DESIGN AND THE SWARMING CONCEPT * A. AIRBORNE ROLES AND SWARMING * B. MANY SMALL, DISPERSED, INTERNETTED MANEUVER UNITS * C. ALL-SERVICE COORDINATION FOR MIXING AND MATCHING * D. BOTH STAND-OFF OR CLOSE-IN CAPABILITIES * E. INTEGRATED SURVEILLANCE * F. CONCLUSION
In September 1944, over 20,000 Allied airborne troops were utilized in the Netherlands as part of Operation Market Garden. The sky would have been thick with parachutes as two entire U.S. Army divisions—the 82nd and 101st—were dropped behind German lines, along with equipment and an additional 15,000 glider troops. This combined arms operation resulted in heavy losses for the Allies, particularly the airborne forces, which were prevented from linking up with the relief columns as planned. It is difficult to conceive of another such spectacle on today's battlefields: the sun literally blotted out by thousands of U.S. paratroopers drifting slowly into harm's way. Yet, U.S. airborne forces' structure has remained largely unchanged since World War II, 70 years ago.