The Cavalry Squadron of 2025

Slide 1
Figure 1. Doctrinal shift toward reconnaissance and surveillance.
Slide 2
Figure 2. Proposed 2025 Cavalry-squadron task organization.

There are two ways to fight the United States: “asymmetric and stupid”;1 therefore we are guaranteed that the operating environment (OE) of 2025 will be characterized as uncertain, decentralized and predominately urban. The U.S. Army needs to be prepared to fight near-peer nation-states as well as asymmetrical threats that look to avoid our strengths and exploit our weaknesses. We will certainly continue to encounter the hybrid threat, the diverse and dynamic combination of regular forces, irregu­lar forces and/or criminal elements – all unified to achieve mutually benefitting effects.2

To be successful against both nation-state and hybrid threats in the OE of 2025, the U.S. Army brigade combat team (BCT) needs to resource and use the Cavalry squadron to conduct both reconnaissance and security operations in proximity to the enemy and the civil population.

OE and hybrid threat

Following a study of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, GEN Donn Starry was convinced of three central points:

  • Long-range anti-armor systems will play a dominant role on the future battlefield;
  • Air-defense systems will directly threaten U.S. air superiority; and
  • The United States must learn to fight and win outnumbered.3

The continuities of war (in other words, war is an extension of politics; war is a human endeavor; war is uncertain; war is a contest of wills4) guide our assessment of the future OE and indicate that multiple nation-states will continue to challenge U.S. interests and that non-state actors will have an ever-increasing regional and worldwide influence.5 Non-state actors like Hezbollah successfully used hybrid-threat operational constructs in 2006 to overcome the military superiority of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). They achieved success through the deployment of “myriad, small, dispersed, networked maneuver units”6 that were armed with weapons previously only associated with nation-states. They employed anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM), man-portable air-defense systems, mortars and rockets, and fought among the civil populace within complex urban terrain to avoid IDF strengths and exploit its weaknesses.7

In the era of persistent conflict, the OE will be complex, but the U.S. Army must be able to fight and win our nation’s wars against nation-states or non-nation-state actors in any geographical location. To be able to defeat any type of force we may face, Cavalry squadrons must be able to successfully conduct both reconnaissance and security operations.

Squadron’s organizational history

The U.S. Army has fluctuated on how to properly organize and employ the Cavalry since its transition from horse to motorization. When the Army wants a force capable of performing both reconnaissance and security operations, it is labeled a “cavalry” organization. When the focus of that organization is reconnaissance and surveillance, it is labeled a “reconnaissance” organization. For the BCT of 2025 to be successful, the Army needs to evolve Cavalry squadrons capable of conducting both information-collection and security operations simultaneously to support unified land operations.

The March 1943 publication of Field Manual (FM) 2-30, Cavalry Mechanized Reconnaissance Squadron, identified two main purposes for the organization. “The principal mission of the squadron is to obtain the information required by higher authority and get it back to the interested commander in time to be evaluated.”8 The second mission defines the Cavalry’s ability to fight for information and provide a broad range of security operations for its parent formation.

The FM goes on to explain, “The squadron must expect to undertake the following types of tactical actions: marches; security (internal, for other elements, counter-reconnaissance); attack; pursuit; defend; delay; demolitions; withdrawals.”9

U.S. Army doctrine writers understood the inherent nature of war and acknowledged there would be a high likelihood of contact for Cavalry organizations; as a result, they were organized, trained and equipped to appropriately accomplish this mission.

In 1944, the Army shifted, resulting in units being referred to as “reconnaissance troops.” The organization was stripped of its robust capability in favor of light forces sufficient to support reconnaissance based on infiltration tactics. The FM went on to advise troops to engage in combat only to prevent destruction or capture, and if enemy contact was anticipated, the troop should be augmented with infantry, field artillery and tanks.10 Thus, instead of preserving the combat power of infantry and tank battalions, the reconnaissance troop depleted the combat power of the higher unit it was serving.

Following World War II, review boards found the “reconnaissance only” organization to be “unsound,” arguing that security and combat operations were considered routine activities for Cavalry, and doctrine required appropriate adjustment.11 From 1947 to 2009, the Army maintained an armored cavalry regiment (ACR) to support corps commanders and a division Cavalry squadron, whose task organization mirrored the ACR. The organization of these units provided commanders a robust set of capabilities, from reconnaissance and security to offense and defense to economy-of-force missions.

Beginning with a research-and-development study of Cavalry units performing at the National Training Center in 1985 through the present time, there has been a steady shift from a Cavalry organization capable of conducting reconnaissance and security to a reconnaissance squadron whose mission is reconnaissance and surveillance.12 The fielding of a reconnaissance squadron within the BCT as part of modular transformation resulted in three task organizations – all equally unable to provide effective information collection and security for the BCT against current or projected threats of 2025.

Proposed Cavalry squadron of 2025

The proposed task organization in Figure 2 provides the brigade commander a robust organization capable of both reconnaissance and security operations. The 6x36 scout platoon provides six mounted platforms to deliver scouts onto the battlefield and enough dismounted scouts to establish four static observation posts (OPs) to conduct long-range surveillance operations.

The tank platoons then enable the troop commander to employ his scout platoons in a traditional “hunter-killer” format, where one section of tanks overwatch the platoon of Cavalry Fighting Vehicles (CFVs), then the CFVs deliver the scouts to a dismount point for the establishment of their OPs. The troop commander then has one tank platoon in reserve to employ upon unexpected contact with the enemy or for a target of opportunity.

This capability, going back to 1943, acknowledges the need to fight for information because, as we fight a thinking and adaptive enemy, we will not always be able to know the time or place of each engagement.

The troop is then supported by a platoon of 120mm mortars to provide responsive indirect fires even when dispersed across a wide front conducting a zone reconnaissance or security operations like a guard for the BCT.

The surveillance troop would further enhance the scout platoon’s ability to conduct all-source information collections in support of the BCT commander. The surveillance troop would have the collection assets normally found within the military-intelligence company of the brigade special-troops battalion (BSTB). With the re-designation of the BSTB into the brigade engineer battalion, it is logical to place the information-collection capabilities of the BCT under one headquarters, ensuring unity of command.

The surveillance troop’s capabilities will enhance the squadron reconnaissance capability by providing human-intelligence (HUMINT) collection, signal-intelligence collection and an unmanned aerial surveillance (UAS) platoon. This complement of capabilities assists the squadron commander in the development of Annex L by having the full complement of collection assets for implementation within his scheme of cueing, mixing and redundancy on the battlefield.

The sniper platoon in the headquarters and headquarters troop is designed to provide sniper sections of two snipers and two spotters to the scout platoons. In reconnaissance, the snipers could be employed to infiltrate a particular location. In security operations, the snipers provide small-arms cover and can target key enemy personnel to provide depth and breadth to screen lines and the ability to harass enemy positions. This translates to greater flexibility and adaptability for troop and squadron commanders on the battlefield of 2025.

The “hunter-killer” task organization has proven its worth since World War II, but most notably at the Battle of 73 Easting in the Persian Gulf War. This proven concept is necessary, given that the United States will still face threats from near-peer nation-states in 2025 and beyond. Israel found this out the hard way when, in 2006, the IDF failed to employ its Cavalry formations. One of its tank battalions drove blindly into anti-tank ambushes, leading to casualties, confusion and delays at the beginning of its operation.14

The robust capabilities of the Cavalry squadron provide the BCT a formation that can fight for information and preserve combat power against full-spectrum threats. The mixture of mobile, protected, precision firepower and dismounted scouts provides security and operability within natural or manmade terrain.

Understanding that future conflict has a high likelihood of being within urban terrain, contact with populations will occur. The application of human collectors will remain critical on the battlefield of 2025, and the mixing of collection capabilities from human to signal to aerial under one command will greatly increase the BCT’s information-collection capacity.

Finally, this task organization will unify doctrine for the Cavalry squadron, troop and platoon. The same basic organization and tactics will apply throughout; only the platform will change from a tank/CFV mix in the armored BCT, or a Stryker/Mobile Gun System or ATGM combination in the Stryker BCT, or a Light Reconnaissance Vehicle (LRV) / LRV gun-system mix in the infantry BCT.15

Equipping Cavalry squadron of 2025

The Cavalry squadron must be able to conduct information collection and provide security for the BCT. This includes activities like observing at long ranges, using aerial reconnaissance assets, disseminating and reporting information across a wide and deep OE, collecting HUMINT when in contact with the local populace, cueing additional reconnaissance or offensive assets, and fighting for information in an effort to successfully shape the brigade fight. To do this, the Cavalry squadron of 2025 needs the right combination of communications capabilities; dismounted, mounted and aerial optics; HUMINT collection; and vehicle capabilities.

The most important asset Cavalry scouts have is the ability to communicate. During the Battle of 73 Easting, the continuous, detailed reporting from 2nd ACR’s lead elements allowed follow-on forces to maintain and exploit the initiative. During the 2006 Israel/Hezbollah War, Hezbollah was able to intercept Israeli communications and exploit this advantage.16

The threat and OE of 2025 will demand the ability for scouts to communicate securely across a wide and deep front. They will also need to transmit data such as live feeds, pictures and sketches to their parent unit to answer the commander’s priority information requirements (PIR). This will require a combination of long-range frequency modulation, high frequency, ultra-high frequency, tactical satellite and secure data systems. The continued use of Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below-Joint Capabilities Release and similar technology will allow the squadron commander to exercise secure mission command during reconnaissance and security operations.

To collect information in the future OE, Cavalry scouts must be able to observe named areas of interest. They will do this dismounted, mounted and aerially during daylight and hours of limited visibility. The 2nd ACR had this capability mounted on its tanks and CFVs during the Battle of 73 Easting, providing it a marked advantage over the threat. By comparison, the IDF relied too heavily on satellite and aerial surveillance against a decentralized threat that used overhead cover and camouflage to avoid this strength.17

Future Cavalry optics require a combination of infrared and thermal capability, as well as laser-rangefinder (LRF) and Global Positioning System (GPS) capabilities. The GPS and LRF capabilities will allow scouts to cue combined arms and joint assets such as artillery, close-combat attack helicopters and close-air-support aircraft. These optics need to be tied into communications systems to allow scouts to securely pass pictures and live feeds back to the parent unit. Dismounted scout teams need an optic that can observe and identify mounted targets at three to five kilometers and dismounted targets at two to three kilometers. This will allow them to retain standoff from the threat’s direct-fire systems.

Scout vehicles should have a telescopically mounted optic system that can identify mounted targets at 20 to 25 kilometers and dismounted targets at 15 to 20 kilometers. This will maintain standoff and allow mounted scouts to observe from behind intervisibility lines without exposing their vehicles’ thermal signatures.

For aerial information collection, scouts need an UAS system at every echelon – from the dismount team to the squadron. These UAS should be man-portable at the team level and scale up in size and capabilities. Ideally, these UAS should be vertical-takeoff capable to reduce exposure during takeoff and landing.

These optical capabilities will allow the Cavalry scout of 2025 to collect information during any conditions to succeed in reconnaissance and security missions.

For HUMINT collection, the scout of 2025 must understand the OE using the operational variables of political, military, economic, social, information, infrastructure, physical environment and time. The ability to communicate with the local populace can garner valuable information that answers the commander’s PIR. This was a critical factor to the IDF’s success during the Second Intifada, but a lack of local knowledge hindered its operations in southern Lebanon in 2006.18

To do this, the Cavalry squadron must leverage the surveillance troop’s HUMINT-collection platoon and integrate those Soldiers into dismounted patrols. These HUMINT collectors should have a basic language capability and a firm understanding of how to employ local-national interpreters and be equipped with a technological capability that assists with communicating in different languages. This capability exists in commercial-off-the-shelf programs.

For the scout platoon conducting reconnaissance and security missions, there are four primary considerations: stealth, mobility, firepower and protection. Cavalry units often operate far forward of the parent organization in a non-permissive threat environment. To accomplish this undetected, Cavalry units need a vehicle that has a low visual, thermal and audio signature.

The next requirement is mobility. To collect information during reconnaissance and security operations, Cavalry units will be required to travel cross-country and identify mobility corridors for follow-on units. Therefore, they require a vehicle with all-terrain capability that leaves little noticeable trace on the terrain. For this reason, a wheeled all-terrain vehicle would be preferred over a tracked vehicle.

The third most important requirement is firepower. The ability to fight for information and destroy threat reconnaissance assets is critical when facing the hybrid threat. The proliferation of advanced armor will require a suitable direct-fire capability such as a 30-millimeter main gun and advanced ATGMs to allow Cavalry units to fight for information. The ATGM should have a range of five to seven kilometers, a dual-head warhead to penetrate reactive armor and a non-line-of-sight-capable sensor-shooter link.

The final, but certainly not least-considered, requirement is protection. Any Cavalry vehicle must be able to survive chance contact with the enemy and allow the unit to maintain contact while reporting timely and accurate information. Therefore, a vehicle with the ability to add more armored protection packages based on the mission variables would best meet this requirement and allow commanders to balance protection against the other competing requirements.

The communication, optical, HUMINT and vehicle capabilities outlined here will no doubt evolve the Cavalry squadron of 2025 to allow them to more effectively observe the enemy more accurately at greater distances, use aerial reconnaissance assets, disseminate and securely report information across a large OE, collect HUMINT and fight for information when necessary.

Training Cavalry leaders of 2025

Training the Cavalry force of 2025 requires changes across the institutional, operational and self-development training domains. In the institutional domain, it requires linking career advancement to successful completion of reconnaissance and security schools. Operationally, Cavalry squadrons have to transition from a strictly reconnaissance focus to one that incorporates security operations simultaneously in the future OE. Also, Cavalry leaders need to read, think, discuss and write about historical reconnaissance and security operations as well as in the future OE.

The Maneuver Center of Excellence has consolidated the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Leaders Course (RSLC), Army Reconnaissance Course (ARC) and Cavalry Leader’s Course (CLC) into the Department of Reconnaissance and Security. This provides a tiered system of reconnaissance and security training in the institutional domain.

To realize the full capability of this department, these schools need to be tied to the career advancement of enlisted and commissioned Cavalry leaders:

  • The 19D sergeant is a graduate of RSLC;
  • 19D staff sergeants and 19A second and first lieutenants are graduates of ARC;
  • 19D sergeants first class and 19A captains are graduates of CLC.

Implementing these changes will provide an institutional glide path for Cavalry leaders and ensure they are prepared to conduct reconnaissance and security operations in 2025.

In 2006, the IDF shifted the Cavalry’s focus from reconnaissance and security to primarily surveillance. When the IDF attempted to use ground forces, they lacked the skills necessary to use reconnaissance and security, resulting in a disastrous ambush on an armored battalion.19 Therefore, Cavalry squadrons and BCTs must train for and conduct reconnaissance and security operations against the nation-state and hybrid threat.

Cavalry leaders must also undertake a concerted effort to self-develop their reconnaissance and security skills and to encourage their subordinate leaders to do the same. The Maneuver Self-Study Program provides a base from which to implement such a program in the Cavalry squadrons of 2025. Cavalry leaders at all levels must read, think, discuss and write about their profession, sharing lessons-learned and proactively preparing for future operations.

The second-order effect of such a program in Cavalry squadrons is to advocate for the appropriate use of the force and give BCT commanders the information needed to do so. The third-order effect will be bottom-up refinement of reconnaissance and security doctrine to reflect the lessons-learned from recent engagements and training exercises.


To be successful against nation-state and hybrid threats in the OE of 2025, the Army’s BCT requires a fully capable Cavalry squadron that can conduct both reconnaissance and security operations in proximity to the enemy and civilians. The proposed organizational, equipment and training changes will better enable BCT commanders to conduct unified land operations in an era of persistent conflict.


1 Conrad C. Crane, “The Lure of Strike,” Parameters, 43(2), Summer 2013.

2 Training Circular (TC) 7-100, Hybrid Threat, November 2010.

3 Letter, GEN Donn A. Starry to Deputy Undersecretary of the Army for Operations Research Wilbur B. Payne, July 15, 1974, U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle, PA.

4 MG H.R. McMaster address to Maneuver Captain’s Career Course, Class AC 02-14, Feb. 11, 2014, Fort Benning, GA.

5 TC 7-100.

6 John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, Swarming and the Future of Conflict, RAND Corporation,

7 Dr. David E. Johnson, “Hard Fighting, Israel in Lebanon and Gaza,” RAND Corporation monograph, 2011,

8 FM 2-30, Cavalry Mechanized Reconnaissance Squadron, March 1943.

9 Ibid.

10 FM 2-20, Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop Mechanized, 1944.

11 Dr. Robert S. Cameron, To Fight or Not to Fight?, Fort Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Combined Arms Center,

12 Cameron.

13 Figure 1 from Cameron.

14 Johnson.

15 LRV platform performance demonstration request for information,

16 Johnson.

17 Ibid.

18 Ibid.

19 Ibid.