Operation Dragon Spear

Earlier this year, the U.S. conducted a major live-fire exercise at Fort Irwin, California, called Operation Dragon Spear. What makes this exercise special is the fact the U.S. Army invited the public and press to observe.

The exercise involved M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks and AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters which blasted away at older mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles left over from America’s wars in the Middle East.

The targets had symbolic meaning, showing the American public and the world that the U.S. military is pivoting more towards conventional warfare and away from counterinsurgency operations. 

The Army broadcasted radio communications between tank commanders on loud speakers to further submerse the audience into the live action play that was taking place before them.

Rounds ripping through MRAP armor that once protected soldiers from a different kind of threat, it’s a signal to near-peer adversaries like China and Russia that America is shifting its strategy.

Russia has been using a combination of conventional warfare and guerrilla tactics, also known as hybrid warfare, to great effect in the annexation of Georgian territory in 2008 and in the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Separatist rebels continue to use hybrid warfare today in the battles that rage in Eastern Ukraine. The U.S. recognizes the change in strategy and is now adjusting to counter it.

“In the last 18 months, we have really started to train for what we call hybrid warfare, which is actually the warfare I consider Russia is, in fact, conducting. We are in the process of increasing our capabilities in this regard.” – Raymond T. Odierno, 38th Chief of Staff of the Army.

In Operation Dragon Spear the U.S. Army deployed its Airborne Rangers to “regain” control of an airfield, reflecting a real scenario played out in Eastern Ukraine when Russian proxy rebels seized strategic assets and infrastructure.

While America’s military is not completely back to its Cold War ways, it certainly has taken steps to regain its conventional capabilities while adapting to the hybrid warfare threat.

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