No transport, no mission

Last week the flavours of the week in the French Army were logistics and maintenance: two actors that are “multifunctional, multi-mission, multi-environment and polyvalent.”

The Combatant Support Regiment (RSC), here in Lebanon, is based inToulouse. Created on 28 July 2011, the RSC supplies what combatants need to eat, be housed, keep warm, wash : combat rations, water, furnishings, field bedding, ballistic protection. The RSC is heavily called upon in foreign operations and for domestic missions notably in cases of natural disasters.

The Combatant Support Regiment (RSC), here in Lebanon, is based in Toulouse. Created on 28 July 2011, the RSC supplies what combatants need to eat, sleep, keep warm, wash : combat rations, water, furnishings, field bedding, ballistic protection. The RSC is heavily called upon for foreign operations and for domestic missions notably in cases of natural disasters.

More than 7,300 personnel work in the transport sector to convey, interface, integrate and train during operational missions which are “fast, far and difficult,” according to Colonel Guillaume Santoni, director of studies and research at the Ecoles Militaires (EMB) de Bourges during a day-long conference dedicated to front-line logistics.

The other difficulty for transport regiments is that they have to “unlearn everything learned in Afghanistan” to face the new challenges posed by immense distances and stifling heat.

511e régiment du train

A vehicle belonging to the 511th Transport Regiment (MERLO) lifting pieces of a bridge during the assembly of the Bailey structure in Tassiga during the Serval operation in Mali. Credits: Armée de terre

Using private transport companies remains an option for some logistical needs but as Santoni pointed out “private operators don’t go everywhere and certainly not on manoeuvres,” added to which, he stressed “we are moving back to transporting freight in-house” for a very good reason: costs. Civilian U.S. companies transporting freight during the 1st Gulf War, for example, were charging $20,000 per 500km…

Some future developments “of a nature to rethink our engagements” for the transport sector include the use of exoskeletons to carry the average 180kg per combatant: the complexity of the weapons systems, the weight of batteries and soldier protection kits all contributing to the weight. Future developments the transport regiments are also interested in include hybrid engines and alternative fuels.

Colonel Pierre Santoni of the Army Centre for Force Employment Doctrine (CDEF) explained how the arrival of Scorpion will change the basics “because information will be shared by all; logistics and tactics are the two faces of a single coin.

Logisticians are pre-wired for Scorpion,” he commented. His colleague, Colonel Jean-Louis Velut, after point out that “we are [still] in the exploratory phase of Scorpion,” went on to explain that “utilizing information is the heart of Scorpion...[it will allow us] to follow levels of consumption in almost real time and give us an even more precise idea of [necessary] provisioning.” And will put an end to the “three, four days lateness on an operation due to strains in the logistical chain” as reported by General Bernard Barrera who was the commander of the land component of the Serval operation in Mali.

121e régiment du trainThe transport and logistics regiments must not only keep in mind the budget and the schedule but must also be able to make a just evaluation of the operational requirements: neither too much, nor too little. And to never forget that a truck is also a weapon system.503e régiment du train