ARMOR-CAVALRY: Part 1; Regular Army and Army Reserve/Chart: Typical Armor/Cavalry Regiment under CARS

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ARMOR-CAVALRY: Part 1; Regular Army and Army Reserve
Mary Lee Stubbs and Stanley Russell Connor
Chart: Typical Armor/Cavalry Regiment under CARS
U.S. Army Center for Military History publication
CARS TWO.png


  • Under the 1963 reorganization of the armored cavalry regiment, its organic elements reverted to the traditional cavalry designations of squadrons and troops and an aviation company was added. There was little change in the personnel or tank totals for the regiment. Under the 1965 tables, the regiment's full strength rose to 3,349, an increase of 550, and an air cavalry troop replaced the aviation company. The 1965 regiment had 48 helicopters, while its tanks numbered 132, an increase of 10.
  • In an era abundant with new weapons and organizations for the modern Army, yet another new military concept dawned in the mid-1950's when air vehicles were included in cavalry units. As part of a training maneuver, Operation SAGEBRUSH, during the winter of 1955-56, tests were made of an organization, called "Sky Cav," that had light tanks, reinforced infantry, and helicopters. Among its special equipment were electronic, photographic, and other devices for detecting an enemy at night as well as during the day. Initially the idea stemmed from a broadening of the term communications to cover "not only the transmission of information within Army units but also the acquisition and relay of combat intelligence on enemy activities, including observation and reconnaissance." It was in the nature of this reconnaissance phase of communications that "Sky Cav," combining both air and ground elements in the same unit, was born. First to be authorized a unit of this type was the airborne division, its airborne reconnaissance troop of 1956 being authorized 12 helicopters- 10 light cargo and 2 observation. In 1957, with the advent of CARS, Troop B, 17th Cavalry, was organized in the 101st Airborne Division and was soon followed by Troop A, 17th Cavalry, in the 82d Airborne Division.
  • By late 1957 the feasibility of armed helicopters had been accepted by the Department of the Army, and a third dimension was added to the Army battlefield. In September 1959 a provisional unit, called an aerial reconnaissance and security troop, was organized for test purposes within the 2d Infantry Division. It was equipped with 27 helicopters, 17 of which were armed.
  • When the divisions were reorganized under ROAD, the 1963 tables of organization and equipment provided for an air cavalry troop in the armored cavalry squadron in all types of divisions. The mission of the air cavalry troop was described as being the extension, by aerial means, of the squadron's reconnaissance and security capabilities. The troop's principal elements were an aero scout platoon, an aero rifle platoon, a service platoon, a flight operations section, and an aero weapons section. At full strength, it was equipped with 26 helicopters. In the airborne division, the air cavalry troop had greater firepower and a few more men.
  • When the 120-mm.-gun tank was eliminated in late 1955, more emphasis had been placed upon the medium-gun tank as the Army's main battle tank.
  • By mid-1959 the first of the new M60 series, in the medium tank class, was placed in production. Mounting a 105-mm. gun and having a diesel engine, the M60 had more firepower and greater operational range than its predecessor, the M48. It also had improved crew protection and slightly less over-all weight.
  • The development of an entirely new weapons system, known as the Shillelagh, to provide a direct fire, surface-to-surface, guided missile that could be vehicle mounted, was hailed in 1961 as the initiation of a program to produce a "radical, new main battle tank." Four years later the Shillelagh system was installed on a revolutionary new tank, the XM551 General Sheridan, and for the first time a guided missile became part of a combat vehicle's main armament. Its 152-mm.-gun launcher had the dual capability of firing conventional rounds and launching missiles; the conventional ammunition represented another first with its fully combustible cartridge case. Also, with aluminum armor, the new tank weighed only about 16.5 tons combat loaded and had a maximum speed of over 40 miles per hour. The General Sheridan not only had greater firepower and ground mobility than any other current U.S. Army tank but also had both amphibious and airdrop capabilities. Moreover, its Shillelagh missile system was adaptable for installation on existing tanks in the M60 series. Changes in tactics and doctrine were in process to keep pace with the combat potential of the remarkable new tank and weapons system. Despite these giant strides in the development of armor vehicles and weapons, a program for yet another new main battle tank for the 1970 Army was already under way in a co-operative effort of the United States and West Germany. After three years of development, the first prototype of this joint undertaking- the MBT-70, described as the most advanced military tracklaying combat vehicle in existence- was unveiled in October 1967.
  • During the summer of 1965 the 1st Cavalry Division was reorganized as still another type of division, called airmobile, and was dispatched to the Republic of Vietnam when the U.S. Army began deploying major combat forces to help that country in its struggle for independence. The airmobile principle emphasized the use of Army aircraft to increase the division's battlefield mobility.
  • The airmobile scheme appears to have an even more far-reaching potential than this divisional concept- that of providing the long-sought capability of vertical envelopment by armor. Almost continuous experiments during World War II and since have still not resulted in a successful airborne tank. So far, a tank light enough to be airborne has not been rugged enough for survival in modern warfare. But progress in weight reducing- such as aluminum armor and in air transportability- such as the air supertransport- is rapidly narrowing the gap separating armor and airborne, and another major breakthrough could be in the offing.
  • The Army's arm of mobility spans nearly all of the 200 years of U.S. Army history. From the horse cavalry of the American Revolution to the armor and air cavalry of the Vietnam conflict, continuous improvements have been made in organization and techniques to take advantage of the constant advances in weaponry and equipment.
  • A few modern cavalry units can trace their lineages as far back as 1833, but the cavalry as an arm did not come into real prominence in the U.S. Army until the Civil War. Although some units existed from the American Revolution through the War of 1812, there were no organized cavalry units at all from 1815 to 1833. Then, as the country moved westward, horse cavalry in the Indian Wars-both before and after the Civil War-indelibly etched its place in U.S. Army history.
  • After the coming of the internal combustion engine in the early 1900's, warfare entered upon a new phase during World War I. Tanks emerged and horses were used little. Between World Wars I and II, both tanks (as a part of infantry) and cavalry continued. Cavalry gradually became partially mechanized, some of its mechanized elements joining with tanks to form the Armored Force for World War II. The remaining cavalry units were either mechanized or dismounted before entering combat. Following World War II, after much controversy, the mechanized cavalry and armored units were finally welded together in 1950 into a single armor branch. Now, with airmobile units becoming prominent, another transition may be in the making. First, the mounted arm had the horse, next the tank, and then the helicopter as its means of mobility. Currently airborne armored units are being seriously discussed, and the types of future organizations and their tactics appear to be limitless. The only reasonable prediction that can be made is that change and progress will continue. With that background, no conclusion for this narrative has more appeal than a quotation from General Chaffee, made at the start of World War II, that rings as true today as it did then.
  • It is often said, and it may be true in the abstract, that the principles of war do not change. It is, nevertheless, absolutely true that methods do change and are constantly changing. We may study the great captains of the past to learn of their principles and, above all, of their character, but do not let us be tied too much to their methods. For methods change with every change of armament and equipment.
  • page created 10 September 2001

Notes[edit]

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).