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Manoeuvrist doctrine is the fashion among Western armies today. Although there are many interpretations, the doctrine is generally understood to mean dislocate the enemy physically and mentally by rapid movement in the area of operation, rapid massing of force and fire at the point of contact, and using speed and shock to foreclose his options. These principles were understood even in the ancient world. Roman legions could march quickly to confront enemy armies, and maniples (legion sub units), arrayed in a checkerboard fashion on the battle, could rapidly change orientation to face enemies, mass "fire" by hurling pila, then close in with sword and shield to finish the job.
Doctrines like the US Army's AirLand Battle, coupled with powerful machines like the M1 Abrams tank, exemplify this style of war. Manoeuvrist doctrine requires the ability to conduct manoeuvre both at the operational level (displacing the enemy through rapid organization and movement) and at the tactical level (massing force and fire at the right place and time, and being able to control the battle on your terms under contact). Without both elements, manoeuvre doctrine is incomplete.
Canadian troops in the Second World War discovered that doctrine is not sufficient on its own. Superior German tanks routinely outgunned Canadian Armoured units, shooting attacking units to pieces before they could come to grips with the defenders. By preventing or suppressing tactical manoeuvre, the Germans also slowed and disrupted Canadian operational manoeuvre. (1) By and large, Canadian units were forced to hammer their way through the enemy rather than being able to dislocate the enemy through movement. The Canadian Army is adopting manoeuvrist doctrine for the 21st century but lacks the equipment to fully implement it. The LAV series of vehicles allows for manoeuvre to the point of contact but have difficulty thereafter. (2)
In the Army of the Future, advanced communications and organizational techniques could change the doctrine to one of swarming the enemy with force or fire. Most interpretations of the revolution in military affairs (RMA) focus on delivering precision fire against the enemy through high technology munitions but rarely speak of swarming him with our soldiers in close contact. (3) Swarming with force may be required for military operations in difficult or urban terrain or as a means of dealing with low-level conflicts in operations other than war. Another aspect of RMA that is not often commented upon is that swarming or other forms of self-organized behavior are often predicated on interaction of …