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(Re)learning maintenance

Land Forces Doctrine Review
Science & technology
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On 22 November 2018, one of CEMAT's first messages, General Jean-Pierre Bosser, on his Twitter account opened the previous month, closed the historic logistics symposium in Bourges: "Logistics is one of the most essential parts of the art of warfare. Its purpose is always to provide the forces involved with the means, resources and services essential to their functioning and action. »

As a result, from the beginning of his training and regularly throughout his career, the logistician, in addition to the know-how specific to his speciality, studies the organisation, capabilities and main modes of action of joint units and other operational functions. However, these same joint services units are often unaware of the constraints of logisticians, which often appear to them only as limiting factors.

Where does this lack of appetite for this strategic function come from, creating a gap in thinking between a so-called "joint" manoeuvre and a logistical manoeuvre that should logically be one with the previous one? Why is maintenance one of the ten functions of combat logistics?55 who have for the past few years insidiously left the field of preoccupation of the majority of the Army's executives in metropolitan France and whose effects they rediscover in operations? Finally, why does the SCORPION programme need to rediscover certain fundamentals?

Training of the logistician

Reasoning "inter-gun" ...

In addition to the common initial training and specific periods of technical training, the logistics officer has, on several occasions during his career (initial training organization, unit commanders' training courses, staff diploma, etc.), been trained in a number of different areas (e.g., in the field, in the field, in the field, etc.).) the opportunity, or even the obligation, to study melee and support weapons. He is trained in the same tactical reasoning, learns the potential offered both by the various units and their equipment and if he takes the War College exam, he will be judged, in tactics, primarily on his ability to handle joint units wisely. better accomplish his mission.

This in-depth knowledge of other operational functions offers two main opportunities: to fight better (because before being a specialist or a technician, the logistician remains above all a soldier) and above all to better fulfil his main mission "to support". One of the definitions of logistics being "in all circumstances to give the armed forces, when and where they are needed, in the necessary quantity and quality, the means to live, fight and move".56. This knowledge of the melee's thought pattern helps it to anticipate the many non-compliant cases imposed by the reality of the operations and for which the strict application of doctrine does not allow the mission to be carried out properly. The overwhelming logistic and the rediscovery of the permanent air bridge during Operation ARTEMIS in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003 or the setting up of a permanent airlift system in the Democratic Republic of Congo.The rediscovery of the permanent air bridge during the ARTEMIS operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003 or the setting up of an "island" type system for the benefit of Operation BARKHANE are examples of this capacity to adapt for the benefit of efficiency.

The "combatant" and logistics

Representing one of the three universal strategic functions, along with command and intelligence, logistics is, however, poorly understood by melee and support weapons, although inherently doing part of the inter-gun manoeuvre.

History may partly explain this lack of knowledge, as logistics had long been "dissociated" from the armies living in the provinces crossed or contracted out to the private sector. Although the emergence of industrial wars at the beginning of the 20th century necessitated the The "reinternalisation" of logistics, at the same time as it is becoming more complex, General de Gaulle's aphorism "logistics will follow57 "seems to have become an axiom from the late '90s onward. "The Cold War, which prepares for a large-scale conventional engagement on the territory of the United States, is a major factor in the development of a new international security policy. The European market has undeniable logistical dimensions. ...] This organisation of peacetime in a given area has a lasting effect on the organisation of armies and logistics systems. This machine is
questioned from the end of the bipolar system.58 "Remoteness and the multiplicity of expeditionary theatres as well as the various forms of engagement from the end of the 20th century onwards made it more complex the mission of logistics specialists, while the areas of action were more complex. The small size and asymmetrical nature of the enemy no longer required the "joint forces" to give special thought to planning its support: indeed, whatever the situation, logistics followed.

This fact naturally infused into the tactical training of the cadres. The "logistics" paragraphs of the operation orders of the school exercises, from the application divisions to the staff school, gradually became reduced to a token entry59 or, for certain exercises, to its more polite version "the unit will have 30 days of combat time", allowing for to evacuate the problem and thus the reflection.

"Amateurs study strategy, professionals study logistics"60

Admittedly, from a certain level of responsibility, the staff of the Joint Chief of Staff rediscovers the need to integrate logistics, often the potential centre of gravity of the operational level, at the earliest possible stage in the planning process. Most of the COMANFORs in current army operations do not hesitate to acknowledge that "logisticians are magicians61 "Many ERTF commanders and their unit commanders often see logistics as a limiting factor, because they have not previously assimilated that, like engineering, LOG requires time and anticipation. Thus this lack of appropriation of the field at the lower levels regularly transforms logistics into a constraint characterising a mode of action, whereas it should on the contrary discriminate from the outset against those who are realistic.

The case of maintenance

The design of management training is not the only factor in the problem.

The impact of the PEGP62

If we look more particularly at the field of maintaining land equipment in operational condition (MCO-T), the effects of poor theoretical knowledge have been combined with a lack of knowledge of the An increasingly rare practice. Until the end of conscription and the beginning of professionalization, the preservation of equipment was part of the soldier's daily life, whatever his weapon. A unit commander had access to and was responsible for all the equipment that appeared on his TED and was responsible for it. This could represent up to 30 vehicles (including 11 VABs) for an ECA.63 of infantry regiment. The maintenance of this equipment (vehicles but also armament, transmissions, etc.) was an act of combat like any other, mastered and put into practice by all the personnel. Interactions between combat units and the various maintenance levels (the lowest being even integrated directly into the companies, the organisation of the 2a/2b of the 1980s) were numerous, both in the neighbourhood and during exercises or operations. Preventive maintenance was agreed and perfectly integrated because in part guaranteeing the operational capacity of the unit.

The slow erosion of funds and personnel in the early 2000s made it necessary to implement the PEGP, cutting the regiments' Permanent Service Parks (PSP) as close as possible, imposing the implementation of a pooling system and depriving the units of permanent possession and use of their major equipment. Knowledge-In terms of knowledge and maintenance of equipment, the first victims of this system will have been the first victims of this system. The launch of Operation SENTINELLE and the drastic reduction in the time devoted to operational preparation subsequently reduced the very capacity to properly serve the equipment due to the lack of regular use. Despite the implementation of a policy to preserve the capital of equipment within the corps, the link between the mass of units and the workshops (of the corps or the direct support organisation) gradually weakened.

The evolution of PEGP into CHP64 now makes it possible to experiment with and generalise the implementation of reinforced PSP, synonymous with the reallocation of equipment within the elementary units and a necessary return to basic know-how in terms of equipment use and maintenance. This reappropriation of part of the MCO by users will necessarily go hand in hand with an awareness of the importance of preventive maintenance to protect against the constraints of curative maintenance.

Learn how to waste time to gain time

In Operation BARKHANE, at least until 2017, the pace of planned operations and logistics convoys made it difficult if not impossible to properly recondition equipment. That is to say, taking into account both complete curative maintenance (and not only emergency curative maintenance with the sole objective of guaranteeing the basic functionality of the vehicle : driving, being able to stop, pull and communicate) and preventive maintenance, which alone can prevent the availability of equipment from slow but inevitable erosion.

In the absence of sufficient and planned preventive maintenance, equipment is sometimes used without being fully operational and more often suffers heavy breakdowns or breakdowns, making it unavailable for long periods or requiring it to be sent back to mainland France. Indeed, unlike aircraft of any kind, for which no one dares question the need to ban them from use as soon as they reach a deadline for inspection, equipment that is not fully operational can be used for long periods of time.Unlike aircraft of any kind, for which no one dares to question the need to ban them from employment as soon as they reach a visit deadline, ground equipment exceeding all regulatory tolerances in terms of visit delays was frequently re-engaged with the argument that the mission took precedence and that, at worst, they would simply stop flying. Thus, by the end of 2015 in the Sahelo-Saharan strip, some ten VABs (almost 10% of the park) had exceeded their systematic 400-hour visit by more than 300 hours.

Prevention means not having to cure

This sacrifice of preventive maintenance "so as not to waste time" actually has the opposite effect. The difference can be illustrated by the assessment of the VIGNEMALE and GOUGOUA operations conducted by the Desert-East Tactical Group (GTD-E) with less than two months difference, in the third quarter of 2015, on substantially similar terrain. During the VIGNEMALE operation, conducted without any particular technical preparation due to lack of time, in only two weeks of operations 73% of the GTD-E vehicles engaged had to undergo curative operations in the field. Conversely, in order to prepare for Operation GOUGOUA, the ERTF agreed to cancel a few minor actions in order to devote sufficient time to preventive maintenance operations. The result was an overall rate of curative operations of 20% and above all limited to 21% of the equipment committed.

This rate of 20% of curative operations is, moreover, the maximum standard aimed at in private industry, for preventive maintenance representing at least 80% of operations. Indeed, the advantage of preventive maintenance is that it is granted and controlled and not undergone. It is better to anticipate a breakdown by choosing, in coordination with production, preventive maintenance slots to carry out operations that are standardised over time and for which the spare parts have been selected in advance.It is better to anticipate a breakdown by choosing, in coordination with production, preventive maintenance slots to carry out operations that are standardised over time and for which the spare parts have been ordered and delivered, rather than suffering a breakage, necessarily at the wrong time, on a part that is not in stock and for which the return-to-service time will be uncertain.

The SCORPION revolution

SCORPION, better prevention and faster healing

The objective is not to dogmatically apply civil industry standards to operational equipment, but to limit as far as possible the time the user is deprived of use, by optimising the use of the equipment.The objective is not to dogmatically apply civil industry standards to operational equipment, but to limit as much as possible the time the user is deprived of use, by optimising the preventive/curative ratio and by transforming systematic preventive maintenance in time to a predictive maintenance programmed by an evaluation of the need. To achieve this, the vehicles in the SCORPION program will be able to rely on HUMS technology, thanks to integrated and communicating sensors.65 to streamline this preventive maintenance. However, the first link in the chain that guarantees optimal equipment availability remains the user. One of the objectives of the MCO-T 2025 is therefore "to invest together with the forces that are the first players in preserving their own combat capability and maintaining their equipment in operational condition".66.

At the same time, SCORPION equipment has been designed so that the curative maintenance operations, carried out by MCO-T specialists, are as short as possible (80% of initial repairs could be carried out by the troop mechanics within a maximum of four hours).

Continuing to adapt

Beyond the design of the programme's engines, SCORPION's exploratory doctrine is studying a new three-tiered (discovery, assault and logistics) concept of the GTIA that could revolutionise our current conception of combat in order to exploit the opportunities offered by the equipment in the areas of mobility and aggression as well as command support. As a result, the logistics tier will be clearly integrated into the AWG manoeuvre. As for the discovery level, according to the first simulation exercises, it could theoretically manoeuvre and engage in combat up to 80 kilometres ahead of the rest of the AITG. This requires the definition of an innovative support concept to guarantee its long-term commitment, the extraction of its neutralised equipment and its replacement in order not to not hinder the rhythm of its manoeuvre, to take into account the principle of coalescence or the insecurity associated with engaging in gaps. Operational maintenance and, more broadly, logistics are clearly designed to contribute to the operational superiority factor "endurance": "The foundations and principles of endurance will be [...] a lightening of the logistical footprint (reduction of stocks and production of parts in situ) and increased reactivity of support structures; [...] the search for the right compromise between several imperatives: - the constant concern for mobility [...] - robustness based in particular on controlled technological choices and simplicity implementation and maintenance, enabling rapid regeneration of fleets (replenishment and repair as close as possible to contact in degraded technical conditions).67. »

In addition to basic maintenance and operating skills, tomorrow's SCORPION pilot will surely have to be able to carry out (in being machine-guided) diagnosing its failed weapons system or assisting in the extraction on contact with a damaged friendly craft.68 (Just as every soldier is trained as a combat medic, shouldn't every pilot know how to be a combat mechanic). The advanced maintenance team of the troop corps, now as close as possible to the contact, will discriminate between the machine that can be repaired on the spot and the one to be replaced and evacuated. This information, relayed in real time within the SCORPION bubble, will enable the rear logistics level to implement, without delay, the ad hoc mode of action (routing of an theatre reserve or sending a reinforced repair team with the necessary spare parts already in place, which will be sent to the theatre.These spare parts will be automatically integrated into the network and the manoeuvre thanks to SICS) in order to restore the combat potential of the unit in contact as soon as possible.

Thus, with the SCORPION combat, the logistician will have to know even more than before the fundamentals structuring the joint combat in order to efficiently and effectively carry out his support missions for melee and support weapons and to be able to integrate more quickly into the ongoing manoeuvre. For their part, these same weapons will benefit from taking better account of the basic principles and know-how guiding logistics and integrating them as part of the input to their tactical thinking and no longer as an a posteriori filter in the goal of developing a single, coherent maneuver.

55 Health support, human support, operational personnel condition, ammunition support, operational sustainment, oil support, transport, parking support, operational health and safety, and environmental protection.

56 Joint Operations Support Doctrine, IAP 04.201 of 8 February 2008.

57 Exact quote: "stewardship will follow".
58 Olivier KEMPF, "Introduction générale," in La logistique, une fonction opérationnelle oubliée, L'Harmattan, 2012, p. 13.
59 Excluding the famous TD LOG, which consists of calculating loss rates in men and equipment as well as the volumes of rations to be ordered by applying simple mathematical formulas; an exercise that is already unattractive for logisticians and all the more so for the neophyte.
60 General Omar BRADLEY, in T.PIERCE, Proceedings of the US Naval Institute, vol. 122, No. 9, p. 74.

61 GDI GUIBERT, former COMANFOR BARKHANE, lecture at the École de Guerre-Terre, November 2018.
62 Employment and park management policy.
63 Lighting and support company.

64 "Au Contact" parks policy.

65 HUMS: Health and usage monitoring systems. Generic term given to activities that use data collection and analysis techniques to help improve the availability, reliability and safety of equipment. Example: dynamic engine oil quality control system allowing an oil change to be carried out when it has become necessary and no longer systematically after a defined number of kilometres.
66 "Anchoring the land-based MCO in modernity", strategic plan 2017-2020.

67 "Future land action", 2016, p. 44.
68 Use of kits, pre-mounted on combat vehicles, allowing emergency towing of a vehicle of the same tonnage. RUF" type system, rescue under fire.

Title : (Re)learning maintenance
Author (s) : Lieutenant-colonel Jean-Hugues FRIEDERICH, École de Guerre-Terre, stagiaire de la 132e promotion