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APPENDIX B
JOINT AND AIR ASSAULT OPERATIONS

Introduction

This appendix describes the planning process for airborne, amphibious, air assault, and ranger operations. It also discusses the US Marine Corps fire support interface.

Airborne Operations

Airborne operations are usually joint operations conducted with the US Air Force. The Air Force provides the airlift, close air support, and aerial resupply for the airborne ground forces. Normally, units participating in an airborne operation are assigned to a joint task force (JTF). In this instance, the senior Army commander (division or higher) is designated the Army Forces (ARFOR) commander.

Command and Control

The ARFOR commander is responsible for fire support planning and coordination for the overall operation. His FSCOORD advises on and recommends the use of, fire support assets. The ARFOR FSCOORD is responsible for preassault fire planning and coordination.

During the assault phase of the operation, C2 (including fire support planning, coordination, and targeting) is conducted from an airborne platform called the airborne command and control center (ABCCC). The ARFOR commander uses the ABCCC secure communications system to interface with any long-range reconnaissance and surveillance team inserted early in the operation; the combat control teams (CCTs), also inserted early if possible; the assault force commander and FSCOORD; and fire support assets.

Two Air Force elements normally on the ground early during the airborne assault are the TACP and the CCT. They are an essential part of the overall fire support effort and, as such, must be included in the planning effort. They must be fully briefed and thoroughly knowledgeable of the fire support plans for the airborne assault and subsequent operations.

The TACP may--

  • Relay transmissions from ground FS cells to the airborne FS cell when normal communications are unavailable.

  • Coordinate and control CAS as required.

The CCTs may be inserted into the area well before the assault begins. Their job is to locate targets, determine suitability of the LZ and/or drop zone (DZ), and control airlift assets. All members of the CCT are trained to call for and adjust indirect fires. The CCTs may aid the fire support effort by--

  • Communicating with the ABCCC platform if other than FM communications are required.

  • Communicating with TACAIR if other than FM communications are required and the TACP did not arrive in the airhead.

Transfer of Control

Conduct of fire support coordination distinguishes the initial assault phase from subsequent phases. Fire support planning and coordination functions are transferred when the assaulting force commander and his FSO are on the ground and operational.

At first, the assaulting force FSO is concerned with close-in targets, while the airborne FS cell focuses on deeper targets. As the airhead matures, the ground commander progressively assumes total responsibility.

Planning

Upon receipt of the warning order, the assault force develops four basic plans regardless of the type of mission, the force size, or the duration of the operation. They develop these plans in a reverse planning sequence.

Ground Tactical Plan. This includes the scheme of maneuver and fire support that the unit will use on the ground. It includes all actions from the time the unit has assembled on the drop zone or landing zone through the completion of the operation. The most likely light infantry operation to occur in the initial stage of an airborne assault is the hasty attack followed by the establishment of a perimeter defense. (See Chapter 3 for fire support considerations.) Control of fire support assets is highly centralized. Fire planning should emphasize--

  • Blocking enemy avenues of approach to the DZ.

  • Eliminating enemy resistance.

  • Defending the airhead.

Landing Plan. The purpose of the landing plan is to ensure the correct units arrive at the correct location on the DZ. The assaulting force FSO must review the plan to ensure fire support personnel and equipment are correctly cross-loaded. The loss of aircraft should not completely disrupt the fire support provided to the assaulting force. The assaulting force FSO must also ensure all fire support personnel understand their assembly instructions. The assaulting force FSO should review the preassault fire plan to ensure it supports the assaulting force commander's plan. Consideration must be given to the level of surprise desired, the rules of engagement, collateral damage, and airfield damage.

Air Movement Plan. The S3 air, an air movement officer for each participating unit, and an Air Force representative develop the air movement plan. The assaulting force FSO must ensure that fire support personnel and equipment are included on load plans and manifests. The assaulting force FSO should review the fires planned on enemy AD targets along the primary and alternate flight routes.

Marshaling Plan. The marshaling plan covers all actions from the time the warning order is received until the units have loaded the aircraft.

Amphibious Operations

The complex nature of amphibious operations makes detailed planning of paramount importance. Centralized control is lost from the time of embarkation aboard ship until reorganization ashore. Light forces may be transported to a contingency area by US Naval forces. The following discussion explains to the FSO how these operations are conducted and emphasizes transfer of control from aboard ship to the ground forces.

Phases of Operations

Fire support for amphibious operations is planned to support three phases.

Pre-D-Day Fires. Often referred to as preliminary bombardment, these fires are delivered primarily to destroy defenses which might hinder or disrupt the landing.

D-Day Operations Fire Support. This consists of fires delivered by the ships during the landing of assault landing forces and the establishment of a beachhead. These fires include landing beach preparation, prearranged close support, and deep fires. In general, these fires neutralize enemy defenses to cover waterborne and helicopter assaults and disrupt enemy command, communications, and observation. Also, they are fired in direct support of the landing force.

Post-D-Day Fire Support. This fire support continues until the landing force is out of naval gunfire range or naval gunfire is no longer needed. At this time, ships are given other missions, among which is delivery of supporting fires on the flanks of the landing area and on targets of opportunity along coastal areas.

Command and Control

An amphibious operation requires detailed planning, precise timing of air and naval gunfire, and effective command relationships. The overall commander of the amphibious operation is a naval officer. His title is commander amphibious task force (CATF). He ensures that coordinated naval gunfire and air support plans are prepared for all phases of the operation. He establishes a supporting arms coordination center (SACC), which plans and coordinates fires for the task force during the planning and execution of the operation. The SACC is responsible for coordinating all fires during the assault. The naval officer who supervises the SACC is called the supporting arms coordinator. The SACC is located on the command ship.

The commander of the maneuver force that conducts tactical operations on the ground is called the commander landing force (CLF). The CLF determines his needs for air, naval gunfire, field artillery, and mortars and prepares the fire support plan. This is done in the FS cell established by the FSO of the landing force. While afloat, the FS cell is located with or adjacent to the SACC. Common communications facilities are used until the FS cell moves ashore. The FSO advises the supporting arms coordinator to ensure effective integration of the fire support plan that supports naval operations and the landing force scheme of maneuver.

Air and Naval Gunfire Liaison Company

The air and naval gunfire liaison company (ANGLICO) is provided by the USMC. It provides personnel to control and coordinate both naval gunfire and naval air support for the US Army. It is essential that ANGLICO representatives be attached to the landing force as early as possible. This is to ensure rapid establishment of communications to provide the required fire support for the landing force commander's scheme of maneuver. The ANGLICO provides each brigade a platoon of personnel and communications equipment to plan, request, coordinate, and control naval gunfire and naval air. Each brigade platoon has two battalion supporting arms liaison teams. The SALTS support and are attached to two maneuver battalions within the brigade. Each SALT has a liaison section to be located in the FS cell and two firepower control teams, which are attached to maneuver companies.

Duties of the air and naval gunfire liaison officers are as follows:

  • Serve as a member of the brigade FS cell.

  • Determine requirements for NGF and naval air support.

  • Prepare requests for NGF and naval air support.

  • Perform target analysis.

  • Help coordinate NGF and integrate it with other supporting arms.

  • Ensure that timely information is furnished to fire support ships regarding location of maneuver units.

  • Provide information on the status of naval ammunition supplies and resupply.

Duties of the SALT officers are as follows:

  • Supervise firepower control teams.

  • Advise the battalion FSO on naval gunfire and naval air employment.

  • Coordinate naval gunfire and air employment.

  • Act as expert on naval gunfire and naval air.

NOTE: Early attachment of ANGLICO personnel
and rapid establishment of communications with
the FS cell afloat are vital to the success of the
landing forces mission once ashore.

Transfer of Control and Coordination
of Supporting Arms

The place at which fire support coordination is effected distinguishes the initial assault phases of the operation. The transfer of these functions depends largely on the ability of the SACC and the FS cell to communicate. During the assault phase, fire support planning and coordination and targeting are conducted from the FS cell afloat. Communication with the landing forces is through the SALTS of the ANGLICO. At this time, the landing forces are concerned with close-in targets while the FS cell afloat focuses on deeper targets affecting the landing. Fire support coordination is transferred from afloat to land when the landing force commander's FS cell is established. (This should occur at the same time the CLF TOC is established.) There is no specific doctrinal time for this transfer; however, once the landing force is ashore, the CLF will recommend to the CATF when the transfer should occur. It is imperative that the transfer take place as soon as possible. The transfer may be conducted in the following steps:

  • Landing force begins centralizing control of fire support assets; that is, FO calls for fires from the FSO, who allocates the mission to assets he has centralized.

  • There is more interaction between the landing force FS cell and the FS cell afloat. Targeting is transferred to the landing force FS cell.

  • FS cell functions are transferred to the landing force. The FS cell now can communicate with tactical units and the SACC. Decentralized FA battery operations are centralized into FA battalion or div arty operations.

  • After the beachhead is secured, the landing force resumes normal tactical operations.

US Marine Corps Organizations

The purpose of this paragraph is to familiarize the Army FSO with the Marine Corps organization.

Landing Force

The landing force is a task organization of troop units that include both aviation and ground organizations. (Collectively, all aviation units assigned are called landing force aviation.)

The culmination and ultimate purpose of US amphibious power is the projection ashore, by vertical and/or surface assault, of the landing force. The landing force is a Marine air-ground task force (MAGTF) varying in size and composition with its mission. It is landed from and subsequently supported by the amphibious task force (ATF). Both the landing force and the ATF can be task-organized rapidly for a mission or for a variety of missions. The landing force organization for combat meets this requirement for flexible yet accurate response through three basic task organizations:

  • The Marine expeditionary unit (MEU).

  • The Marine expeditionary brigade (MEB).

  • The Marine expeditionary force (MEF).

Marine Air-Ground Task Force

A MAGTF is a task organization of Marine forces from a division, an aircraft wing, and service support groups (units, personnel, and equipment) under a single command. It is structured, manned, and equipped to do the specific mission(s) assigned. This task organization is designed to exploit the combat power inherent in fully integrated air and ground operations. The composition of a MAGTF may vary considerably, but normally it includes the following major components:

  • A command element.

  • A ground combat element.

  • An aviation combat element.

  • A combat service support element (including Navy support elements).

The MAGTF commander has a separate headquarters, which is structured for operational functions and is tailored to the mission. The task organization of the MAGTF HQ is one of the most critical aspects of MAGTF activation and operations. There are some notable differences between a MAGTF HQ and the headquarters of a more traditional organization such as a division, a regiment, or a battalion. The establishment of separate air-ground headquarters permits subordinate commanders to direct their attention primarily to the command of their respective elements. The MAGTF staff extends and complements the capabilities of headquarters of major elements of the MAGTF but, under normal circumstances, should not duplicate them.

Marine Expeditionary Unit

The MEU is a task organization which normally is built around a battalion landing team (BLT) and a composite squadron. It is normally commanded by a colonel and is used to fulfill routine forward afloat deployment requirements. The MEU can react immediately to crisis situations and is capable of relatively limited combat operations. Because of comparatively limited sustainability, it is not envisioned that the MEU will routinely conduct amphibious assaults. When committed, the MEU is normally supported from its sea base. The MEU is considered to be the forward afloat deployed element of a larger landing force.

The ground combat element of the MEU is normally a BLT. Only under unusual circumstances would the ground combat element consist of two BLTs.

The aviation combat element of the MEU is a composite squadron which includes two or more types of helicopters and elements from the wing support group. In some situations, the composite squadron may also include vertical/short takeoff and landing (VSTOL) attack aircraft. Normally, the MEU includes a direct air support center (DASC) for control of aircraft ashore. Under such circumstances, the DASC is normally collocated with the BLT fire support coordination center (FSCC).

The combat service support element (CSSE) of the MEU is the MEU service support group (MSSG). It is formed from elements of the Marine division and the force service support group (FSSG). Detachments from Navy CSS resources may also be required.

The artillery support normally provided to the MEU is an artillery battery. This battery is normally attached to the infantry battalion that is the ground combat element of the MEU. A problem here is that the battery is not capable of sustained independent operations. It must rely on the infantry battalion for supply, maintenance, and administrative support. An artillery battery has a large maintenance requirement. Therefore, a close relationship must exist between the infantry battalion, the maintenance management officer (MMO), the battery MMO, and the logistics support unit (LSU). Other artillery units, or sections thereof, may be necessary to satisfy additional fire support requirements. For example, medium or heavy artillery may be necessary to deliver counterfire and nuclear weapons. In selecting and organizing artillery for combat, the mobility and amphibious compatibility of the units must be considered, since all artillery cannot be moved quickly during the early hours of the assault.

Naval gunfire requirements are determined during the planning phase. As a minimum, each committed battalion should have one naval gunfire ship in direct support and should be furnished one or more shore fire control parties (SFCPs) from the artillery battalion.

The MEU headquarters may or may not have an FSCC, depending on the number of ground combat elements it has for the operation. For example, the MEU may have two battalions operating in the MEU zone of action and each battalion may have its own boundaries, each responsible to the MEU. Then the MEU must coordinate the maneuvering and fire support through its operations center and FSCC. If it has only one battalion for the operation, the FSCC of the maneuvering battalion serves as the landing force FSCC. The physical location (sea or land) of the MEU headquarters does not change this arrangement.

Marine Expeditionary Brigade

The MEB is a task organization which is normally built around a regimental landing team (RLT) and a provisional Marine aircraft group. It is normally commanded by a brigadier general and can conduct amphibious assault operations of limited scope. During potential crisis situations, the MEB may be forward deployed afloat for an extended period to provide immediate response and may serve as the precursor of the MEF. Under these conditions, MEB combat operations may be supported from the sea base, facilities ashore, or a combination of the two.

The ground combat element of the MEB is tailored to accomplish the mission assigned; however, the ground combat element of the MEB normally equates to an RLT.

The normal aviation combat element of the MEB is a provisional Marine aircraft group, including elements from the wing support group. This provisional Marine aircraft group has substantially more varied aviation capabilities than those of the air element of the MEU. It contains those antiair warfare capabilities required by the situation. Unlike the MEU, the aviation combat element of the MEB is organized and equipped to be capable of early establishment ashore as existing airfields in the landing area become available. Should the landing area not contain suitable airfields, an expeditionary airfield will be developed by using assets organic to the MEB.

The CSSE of the MEB is a brigade service support group (BSSG). It is formed from elements of the Marine division and the FSSG. Detachment from Navy CSS resources may also be required.

The artillery support normally provided to the MEB is an artillery battalion. Its tactical relationship to the ground combat element (GCE) may be direct support or attachment. Attachment to the GCE infantry regiment is situation-dependent. Other artillery units may be required to provide additional fire support. For example, heavy artillery may be necessary to deliver counterfire and nuclear weapons. In selecting and organizing artillery for combat, the mobility and amphibious compatibility of the units must be considered, since some artillery cannot be moved quickly during the early hours of the assault.

Naval gunfire requirements for the MEB are determined during the operations planning base. As a minimum, each committed GCE battalion should have one naval gunfire ship in direct support, and a general support ship should be provided to each committed regiment.

The MEB may have two regiments operating in its zone of action; and each regiment may have its own boundaries, each responsible to the MEB. Then the MEB must coordinate the fire support and maneuver through its operations center and FSCC, which is formed and resourced by division headquarters as an augmentation to the MEB headquarters. Likewise, if the MEB has only one regiment for the operation, the FSCC of the maneuvering element will serve as the landing force FSCC. The physical location (sea or land) of the MEB headquarters does not change this arrangement.

Marine Expeditionary Force

The MEF, the largest of the MAGTFs, is normally built around a division or wing team. However, it may range in size from less than a complete division or wing team up to several divisions and aircraft wings, together with an appropriate CSS organization. The MEF is commanded by either a major general or a lieutenant general, depending on its size and mission. It can conduct a wide range of amphibious assault operations and sustained operations ashore. It can be tailored for a wide variety of combat missions in any geographic environment.

The ground combat element of the MEF is usually a Marine division reinforced with appropriate force combat support units.

The aviation combat element of the MEF is usually a Marine aircraft wing task-organized to conduct all types of tactical air operations. The aviation combat element is organized and equipped to facilitate its early establishment ashore in amphibious operations and is designed for operations in an expeditionary environment. In the MEF that has two or more aircraft wings, the senior wing commander is usually designated the tactical air commander of the MEF.

The MEF may include an organic MEB or MEU as a separate element. This allows the MEF to conduct air-ground operations separated sufficiently in space or time from other MEF elements or to temporarily use an in-being, cohesive MEB or MEU when the MEF is a follow-on force. Such operations involving a separate MEB or MEU would normally be of limited duration.

The artillery regiment is the primary source of firepower for the MEF.

Ships assigned to naval gunfire support are usually provided one in direct support of each committed maneuver battalion and a general support ship to each committed regiment. The MEF headquarters should also have a general support ship for its use.

The combat service support element of the MEF is an FSSG.

USMC Fire Support
Coordination Facilities

Composition

The composition of the USMC FSCC includes a designated FSCOORD, supporting arms representatives, and staff personnel necessary for conducting operations, to include target intelligence and communications duties. The number of personnel and amount of equipment vary with the level of command and responsibility, the size and complexity of the forces involved, the degree of planning and coordination required, and the desires of the commander.

NOTE: The Marines use the acronym FSC when
referring to the FSCOORD. However, to facilitate
understanding, this publication will use FSCOORD
when referring to the fire support coordinator.

Personnel and Equipment

The FSCC is the only installation in which the necessary communications facilities and supporting arms personnel to coordinate and plan air, artillery, and naval gunfire support are centralized. At the division and MAGTF levels, when an FSCC is required, it will have the personnel and equipment for a formal operation. Operations of the battalion and regiment are generally informal. The informal operation is characterized by close liaison, frequent meetings, and flexible communications. The operation of all FSCCs is based on the same fundamental of fire support coordination; however, the extent, type, and requirements for planning, coordination, and control differ at the various echelons of the landing force. The necessity for the difference in FSCC operations is reflected in the fact that neither the requirements for, nor the supporting arms available to, the infantry battalion and regiment are as great as those for divisions or MAGTFs.

Staff Relationships

The FSCC functions under the general staff supervision of the G3 or S3. Since the FSCC is an advisory and coordinating element only, it is not an additional echelon vested with command functions nor is it charged with actual control or direction of a fire support mission. The artillery commander or his representative is normally designated as the fire support coordinator. This, however, does not result in the air and naval gunfire officers becoming his assistants. The FSCOORD is assigned responsibility only for the coordination of fire support plans and recommendations. The air, artillery, and naval gunfire officers have special staff functions; and each has individual access to the commander and his staff. The requirements of the commander necessitate that the individuals composing the FSCC operate under the direction and guidance of the FSCOORD to comply with proper staff functioning and relationships.

Rifle Company Fire Support
Coordination Center

The rifle company has no FSCC as such. The rifle company commander is his own FSCOORD. He is assisted by his FOs, FAC, NGF spotter, and so forth. It is at his echelon that control and coordination at the lowest possible level take place in most instances. The artillery forward observer team provided to each maneuver company is from the DS battalion. The artillery forward observers are assigned on the TOE of the firing batteries of the DS battalions. The forward observer teams are composed of a second lieutenant forward observer, a scout observer (corporal or lance corporal), and two radio operators. The infantry company may also be provided an 81-mm mortar FO, a FAC, and a naval gunfire spotter team.

Battalion-Level Fire Support
Coordination Center

The battalion-level FSCC is established by the battalion commander under the staff cognizance of his S3. The FSCC operates in the same manner whether it is an individual battalion, a BLT, or a MEU. The liaison sections provided to each maneuver battalion FSCC are from the corresponding artillery firing batteries. These sections are headed by first lieutenant liaison officers, who are to provide the necessary artillery expertise to the maneuver battalion. The FSCOORD at the infantry battalion FSCC is the weapons company commander from the infantry battalion. The NGLO is the Navy officer of the SFCP organic to the artillery battalion. The ALO is organic to the infantry battalion headquarters S3 section. The battalion commander and the battery commanders of the artillery battalion establish and maintain command liaison with the supported infantry. In armored battalions, the FSCOORD is normally the assistant S3.

Regiment-Level Fire Support
Coordination Center

The regiment-level FSCC is established by the regimental commander under the staff cognizance of his S3. It operates in the same reamer whether it is an individual regiment or an RLT. When a single regiment comprises the ground component of the MEB, the regimental FSCC usually is designated as the landing force FSCC and coordinates fire support for the entire force as well as the regiment. When the ground component consists of more than one regimental headquarters, there should be FSCCs at both regimental and landing force levels. The artillery battalion provides an artillery LO and personnel to the FSCC. A naval gunfire officer is assigned with a naval gunfire liaison team from the headquarters battery of the artillery battalion. An air officer and a nuclear and chemical weapons employment officer are both organic to the infantry regimental S3 section. The artillery battalion commander establishes and maintains command liaison with the supported infantry regimental commander. Either the artillery commander or his representative maintains a close relationship with the regimental staff (especially the S3) to provide guidance and make recommendations for effective employment of artillery.

Division-Level Fire Support
Coordination Center

The division-level FSCC is established by the division commander under the staff cognizance of his G3. It operates in the same manner whether it is an individual division or a component of a larger force. The personnel for operation of the division FSCC are provided from the artillery regiment. The artillery regimental commander is the FSCOORD. The headquarters battery of the artillery regiment provides an FSCC section with two assistant FSCOORDs, intelligence and communications personnel, appropriate equipment, and the related materiel, forms, and references required to plan and coordinate artillery fires of a division. When the artillery commander must be absent from the CP or is occupied with the direction of his command, a designated assistant FSCOORD performs the duties of the FSCOORD. The naval gunfire officer, air officer, and nuclear and chemical weapons employment officer are all organic to the division headquarters. The headquarters battery provides facilities for the division FSCC. Whenever the need arises for an alternate, or additional, division FSCC, personnel and equipment from the primary division CP are used.

Landing Force Fire Support
Coordination Center

The FSCCs of MAGTFs are established by their commanders as required. The landing force (LF) FSCC is the FSCC of the senior echelon comprising the landing force. It is responsible for determining the overall requirements of the support for the landing force and for maintaining coordination and direct liaison with the amphibious task force. The landing force FSCC differs from other FSCCs only in its external relationship with supporting arms agencies and higher headquarters. The extent of operational responsibility is prescribed by the landing force commander for each operation. Personnel and equipment in the amount required are provided by the parent headquarters which provides the ground combat element. If the ground combat element of the MAGTF consists of a single headquarters, the FSCC of that headquarters will function as the FSCC for the MAGTF.

Air Assault Operations

The formation of an air assault task force (AATF) is directed by division (or higher) headquarters because that echelon controls the aviation assets. The task force is designed for a specific mission and consists of an infantry battalion and an aviation company. When an infantry company combines with aviation elements, they form an air assault team (AATM). An AATF exists as long as an aviation unit remains under the control of the infantry unit commander. When that relationship ends, the AATF ceases. Overall command goes to the infantry commander who directs the operation and provides and/or coordinates required support. He is called the air assault task force commander. Battalion is the lowest echelon that has enough personnel to plan and control an air assault operation. Operations of aviation elements providing AATF support are controlled by the commander of the largest supporting aviation unit. He is designated the air mission commander (AMC). He is subordinate to the AATF commander and serves as special staff officer and technical advisor for aviation employment to the AATF commander. The AATF commander may control the operation from a command and control helicopter or from a ground position. The command group usually consists of the AATF commander, AATF S3, AMC, FSO, and forward air controller. The group may be in one or more aircraft and augmented with radiotelephone operators, depending on the aircraft. However, the command group and the FS cell should never be placed in one helicopter.

Planning Considerations for Fire Support

Five plans are developed for the execution of an air assault operation:

  • Staging plan.

  • Loading plan.

  • Air movement plan.

  • Landing plan.

  • Ground tactical plan.

Air assault operations are planned in a reverse sequence. Planning for each phase is not done in isolation from the other phases. Planning that pertains to several different phases may go on simultaneously.

Staging Plan. The staging plan contains the schedule of the arrival of troops, equipment, and supplies at their respective pickup zones (PZs). The plan--

  • Identifies, establishes, and provides control for primary and alternate pickup zones and landing zones.

  • Explains the movement of troops and equipment to the PZ.

  • Establishes sequence and priority for loading.

  • Provides for troop briefings.

The FSO considerations include--

  • Planning fires for primary and alternate PZ protection without endangering the arrival and departure of troops and aircraft.

  • Ensuring FOs are included in load plans so that they arrive at the LZ early in the operation.

Loading Plan. The loading plan is based on the air movement plan. The purpose of the loading plan is to ensure that troops, equipment, and supplies to be moved by helicopter are loaded on the correct aircraft. It is critical to distribute essential items of equipment and weapons among the aircraft. Copies of the loading plan are distributed to PZ control, unit command control elements, and the aviation flight leader.

Air Movement Plan. The air movement plan is based on the ground tactical plan, the landing plan, and the enemy air defense threat. Its purpose is to schedule and provide instructions for moving troops, equipment, and supplies from PZ to LZ. The plan provides coordinating instructions regarding air routes, checkpoints, speeds, altitudes, formations, actions en route, and recovery of downed aircraft. Task force planners select air routes which accomplish the mission while limiting exposure to enemy air defense systems. If enemy AD locations are known, it is better to fly around them rather than attempt to suppress while flying over them.

Fire support considerations include the following:

  • Plan fires to cover primary and alternate PZs and LZs.

  • Plan fires along the flight route(s) to aid aircraft flying past areas of known or suspected enemy positions. These fires, called SEAD, should be intense and of short duration. SEAD fires and smoke protect and obscure friendly movements. Fires must not obscure pilot vision. When planning SEAD, consider all fire support assets:

    • EW and jamming assets.

    • Chaff air-dropped by USAF to confuse enemy AD radars.

    • Artillery, CAS, and attack helicopters for suppression by fires.

NOTE: CAS and/or attack helicopters may be the
only assets capable of ranging targets along flight
routes and on LZs.

  • Plan on-call fires along the flight route to ensure rapid adjustment on targets of opportunity.

Fires to support the air movement plan are executed under procedural control, under positive control, on call, or a combination of the three based on METT-T:

  • Procedural control--fires are initiated and terminated according to a strict time schedule.

  • Positive control--fires are executed with phase lines, air control points, and/or other control measures to initiate, shift, and terminate fires.

Landing Plan. The landing phase is developed concurrently with the ground phase. This phase consists of the time, place, and sequence of AATF arrival into the LZs. Primary and alternate LZs are selected for each unit.

Fire Support for the Landing Plan. Often, it is desirable to make the initial assault without scheduled fires in order to achieve tactical surprise. However, scheduled fires are planned for each LZ to be fired if needed. Scheduled fires include the following considerations:

  • Plan fires for known or suspected enemy forces regardless of size.

  • Plan fires in support of the deception plan.

  • Plan fires for the primary and alternate LZs. Be prepared to execute fires on LZs not being used to deceive the enemy as to which LZs are to be used.

Targets should be scheduled as groups, series, or programs as appropriate. These plans should be short in duration and intense in volume of fire, providing maximum surprise and shock effects. Ordnance for these plans should not create unnecessary obstacles to landing and maneuver; for example, craters, tree blowdown, fires, and low visibility. (Napalm and other incendiary ordnance are not normally used on the LZ and its immediate vicinity just before landing.) Fires are lifted and shifted to coincide with arrival times of the aircraft formations.

Timing Considerations From the Pickup Zone to the Landing Zone. The FSO must carefully consider flight times when scheduling fires for the LZ. The basis for timing is the time when the first aircraft in the first lift of the operation is to touch down on the LZ. It is referred to as H-hour. All times in air assault operations are referenced from H-hour. Normal distances for SPs and RPs from the PZs and LZs, respectively, are from 3 to 5 kilometers. Planning time for navigating these distances is 2 to 3 minutes. If the SP or RP is 3 kilometers from the PZ or LZ, the flight time for that distance is 2 minutes. According to these figures, for the first aircraft to land in the LZ at H-hour, it must reach the RP at H - 2 minutes. The example on the below explains how to compute the time required to cover the distance from the SP to the RP.

These times are computed for the entire length of the flight route from the SP to the RP. The length of each of the flight routes is measured so en route times can be computed.

The flight leader sets en route flight speed to ensure the flight crosses the SP on time. If directed in the order, serial leaders report on passing each communications checkpoint (CCP). The AMC ensures that the FSO is aware of the MTF location. Thus, fires can be placed on targets of opportunity or on enemy positions that threaten the task force. The FSO, through prior planning, has designated the assets and observers who will execute these fires. Further, he has linked all concerned on a common radio net. Security during the flight may be provided by attack helicopters or a combination of USAF and Army aviation assets. These assets provide security to the flanks, front, and rear of the aircraft formation. They may be used to selectively jam enemy radar and communications signals. Indirect fire weapons, if available, provide suppressive fires along the flight routes as planned or as necessary. After passing the release point, the serials proceed to assigned LZs. The RP crossing is used to time the lifting. and/or shifting of artillery and CAS strikes. Lifting and/or shifting of fires is critical and should be completed approximately 15 seconds before landing. A positive control measure should signal the lifting and/or shifting of fires. One method of shifting fires is to shift indirect fires to one flank, conduct a simultaneous air strike on another flank, and use the attack helicopters to orient on the approach and departure routes. This technique requires precise timing and assault formation navigation to avoid flight paths of other aircraft and gun-target lines of indirect fire weapons.

Fires to Support the Consolidation on the Landing Zone. These fires are similar to those planned on any objective and/or perimeter defense as described in Chapter 3.

NOTE: When FOs arrive on the LZ, they must be
prepared to control and use any CAS or attack
helicopter sorties and/or ordnance that was
planned but not used during the movement phase.

Fire support considerations include planning--

  • Informal ACAs to allow simultaneous attack.

  • Fires to isolate the landing zone.

  • Final protective fires.

  • Suppression of enemy air defenses.

  • Prearranged signals to quickly lift and/or shift fires.

Ground Tactical Plan. After the TF completes its consolidation of the LZ, it is reorganized as necessary and prepares to implement the ground tactical plan. Depending on the plan, fire support considerations discussed in Chapter 3 apply.

Control of mortars, especially battalion-level mortars, is difficult in an air assault operation. If an LZ is expected to be cold, mortars should be sent in early so that mortar sections can set up and prepare ammunition for any enemy reactions to the air assault. If the LZ is expected to be hot, mortars should land later to avoid being caught in a direct fire battle. Another important consideration is ammunition availability. Knowing the location and amount of mortar ammunition is crucial to coordinating current fire support and facilitating future plans.

NOTE: More Information for air assault operations
is in FM 90-4.

Air Assault Mission Brief Checklist

Before any air assault operation, the AATF commander and his staff conduct an air mission brief. The example checklist and flight communications card below represent one way to record critical information in the brief.

Ranger Operations

The ranger regiment is a unique light infantry unit tasked to conduct special military operations in support of national policies and objectives. These operations require highly-trained, well-disciplined units that can be employed in any environment, either alone or in concert with other military forces. Ranger operations may support conventional military operations, or they may be conducted independently when conventional forces cannot be used. Fire support assets available to support ranger operations are as follows:

  • Organic--The ranger regiment has limited organic fire support assets. The six 60-mm mortars in each ranger battalion (two in each rifle company) provide the only organic indirect fire support available to the battalion commander.

  • Nonorganic--The missions assigned to the ranger regiment and its subordinate battalions normally require fire support from organizations outside the regiment.

Field Artillery Fire Support

Many ranger unit operations are out of the range of supporting field artillery fires. Whenever such fires are available, they are planned for and integrated into the ranger force ground tactical plan.

Coordination and exchange of call signs, frequencies, and target lists occur before insertion of the ranger force. Unless required by the tactical situation, ranger units do not normally receive augmentation forward observers from supporting field artillery units. The organic FIST from the ranger battalion requests and adjusts field artillery fires for the ranger force.

Field artillery fires can be used to support the ranger force even if the objective area is out of range. Field artillery cannon fire and multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) fire can be used to suppress enemy air defenses as the ranger force crosses the FEBA during airborne or air assault operations.

Field artillery fires can be used to support the exfiltration of ranger elements as they approach friendly lines. These fires can contribute to the deception plan and add combat power to feints used to support ranger operations.

When in range of the objective area, field artillery units can be used to emplace field-artillery-
delivered FASCAM to enhance the security of the ranger force.

Copperhead rounds fired by 155-mm field artillery units can be terminally guided by the ranger FIST forward observers. They can attack hardened point targets or enemy armored vehicles by use of a man-portable laser target designator (LTD).

Aerial Fires

Aerial fire support is usually the prime means supporting the ranger force because of the distance behind enemy lines at which most ranger operations take place. Aerial fire support can be provided by either fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters.

Fixed-Wing Aircraft. Fixed-wing aerial fire support may come from USAF, USN, or USMC units. The type of unit providing support, the aircraft, and the mix of ordnance carried all affect the fire support planning and coordination process. Some aircraft have a night and all-weather strike ability, which enables them to support the ranger force during any level of visibility. Operations during poor weather that limits visibility to less than 3 nautical miles are still somewhat restricted, however. The ranger FSCOORDs and ALO must ensure that the correct aircraft are requested and employed effectively on the enemy. The TACP directs and adjusts aerial fires in the objective area.

The ranger force can use ground LTDs to pinpoint targets for air strikes as well as electronic navigation aids to permit nonvisual air strikes (beacon bombing). The ranger rifle company FIST or the TACP can control a laser-designated standoff air strike.

If the enemy AD ability is not great or if it can be degraded to a low level, the ranger force uses specially equipped and armed AC-130 aircraft for fire support. These aircraft provide an invaluable combination of firepower, night observation and illumination, communications, and long loiter time. A well-planned and executed SEAD program, coupled with electronic countermeasures (ECM) directed against enemy AD units, normally permits the use of AC-130 aircraft.

Helicopters. The attack helicopter, armed with a mix of antitank guided missiles (ATGMs), 2.75-inch rockets, 20-mm cannon, and 40-mm grenade launchers, is accurate and responsive aerial fire support. The ranger force commander plans to use all sources of aerial fire to help accomplish his mission. However, the nature of ranger operations may preclude the extensive use of armed helicopters because of their limitations. Some attack helicopters are limited in range and lack an all-weather ability. They are restricted during operations at night by a lack of sophisticated night vision devices. Attack helicopters may be used to escort and assist the ranger force as it crosses the FEBA. They may also be used to conduct feints and demonstrations to cover the insertion of the ranger force.

If attack helicopters are used to support a ranger operation, planned indirect fires are normally delivered along entry and exit corridors. Attack helicopters approach and depart the objective area by using nap-of-the-earth flight profiles.

Fires from armed helicopters are normally requested and controlled by the company FS or one of his FOs operating on a special ground-to-air net. The LTD may be used to precisely identify targets for attack helicopters.

Friendly unit locations may be marked by smoke, panels, lights, mirrors, or infrared sources.

Naval Gunfire

During amphibious assaults or operations near a coastline, the ranger force may receive indirect fire support from naval gunfire. Normally, a ranger battalion would be supported by either a destroyer or a cruiser in a direct support role. However, the type and importance of the mission, the type of targets, the ships available, the hydrographic conditions, and the enemy capability determine how many and which type of ships are provided to support the ranger force.

Naval gunfire is characterized by large volumes of highly destructive, flat-trajectory fire. Planned strikes in support of the ranger force may also include surface-to-surface missile fire. Some naval guns can fire a laser-guided projectile much like the Copperhead.

When ranger units are being supported by naval gunfire, a USMC ANGLICO element is routinely attached to the ranger force. This element normally consists of a SALT and two FCTs. The SALT is integrated into the operations of the FS cell at the ranger battalion CP. The FCTs are attached to the ranger rifle companies. The SALT is the NGF representative to the ranger commander, through the FSO. The FCTs request and adjust fires from surface vessels. They can also request and control air strikes by carrier-based aircraft.

The SALT and FCTs operate in the naval gunfire ground spot net, communicating with the ship by HF radio to request and adjust naval gunfire. The SALT or FCT can communicate with aircraft using UHF radios.

Coordination and control measures that apply to naval gunfire are the same as for field artillery, with the addition of two terms:

  • Fire support area (FSA)--A sea area within which a ship may position or cruise while firing in support. It is labeled FSA and numbered by a Roman numeral (for example, FSA VII).

  • Fire support station (FSS)--A specified position at sea from which a ship must fire. This is very restrictive positioning guidance. It is labeled FSS with an Arabic numeral (for example, FSS 7).

Fire Support Organization

Regimental Fire Support Element. The ranger regiment has an organic fire support element consisting of an FSO (MAJ), a senior fire support sergeant (SFC), a fire support sergeant (SSG), and two fire support specialists (SPCs). Since most ranger operations depend heavily on tactical aircraft, a USAF tactical air control party is permanently attached to the regimental FS cell. The regimental TACP includes two ALOs (MAJ and CPT) and two enlisted terminal attack controllers. The TACP brings to the FS cell sufficient USAF tactical radios for requesting and controlling TACAIR support.

The regimental FS cell advises the commander on all fire support matters, allocates fire support assets to ranger battalions, develops fire support plans, and executes the regimental fire support plan.

Battalion Fire Support Element. The ranger battalion headquarters has a FIST headquarters consisting of the battalion FSO, two noncommissioned officers, and two fire support specialists. The FSO is the prime fire support coordinator for the ranger battalion commander. He maintains coordination with the regimental FSO and any attached fire support coordination personnel, such as the USAF TACP or the USMC SALT. The FSO--

  • Advises the ranger battalion commander on all fire support matters.

  • Recommends allocation of fire support.

  • Prepares fire support plans.

  • Assigns target numbers.

  • Processes target lists from the ranger company FISTS to eliminate duplication.

  • Monitors and functions as net control on the ranger battalion fire support coordination net.

  • Reports changes in the status of fire support units to the ranger battalion commander, staff, and FISTs.

When the ranger battalion is operating a single CP, the FSO and his element are normally located there. When the ranger battalion is operating two CPs, one CP is normally manned by the FSO, the fire support sergeant, and a fire support specialist. The senior fire support sergeant and the other fire support specialist would then monitor the fire support coordination net at the other CP. The FSO ensures that any attached fire support elements also divide when needed to operate in a two-CP configuration.

The ranger battalion FIST headquarters has three fire support teams assigned to it. Each team has one FSO (LT), one fire support sergeant (SSG), three FOs (SGTs), and four RATELOs (one SPC and three PFCs). These are normally allocated one to each of the ranger rifle companies. The company FSO and his team--

  • Locate target and request and adjust surface-to-suface fire support (mortor, field artillery, naval gunfire).

  • Plan fires to support the company ground tactical plan and prepare target lists.

  • Coordinate fire support request through the FSO for surface-to-surface and air-to-surface fires.

  • Report battle information.

  • Control air-to-surface fires of helicopters and prepare to assume control of fires from fixed-wing aircraft.

  • Coordinate airspace use within the ranger rifle company operational area.

  • Advise the ranger company commander on all fire support capabilities, limitations, and methods of employment.

  • Inform all fire support units of target priority changes.

  • Designate targets for laser-guided munitions.

  • Assume operational control of, and administrative responsibility for, all augmentation fire support personnel (TACP, FCTs, and attack helicopter liaison teams).

The company FSO is normally with the ranger rifle company commander. The FOs and their RATELOs are normally with the ranger rifle platoon leaders.

Combat Observation/Lasing Team Operations

Ranger COLTs (using LTDs assigned to FIST headquarters [two each] and company FS teams [nine each]) strike high-priority targets that pose threats to the success of ranger operations. The COLT operations are characterized by--

  • Detailed premission planning.

  • Clandestine insertion into an operational area by high-altitude, low-opening (HALO) and/or high-altitude, high-opening (HAHO) parachute techniques; overland movement; or movement by water routes.

  • Employment of air-delivered laser-guided munitions.

A typical COLT mission profile is shown below.




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