Air Interdiction--Focus For The Future AUTHOR Major John A. Snider, USAF CSC 1990 SUBJECT AREA Aviation -TEXT- EXECUTIVE SUMMARY TITLE: AIR INTERDICTION-- FOCUS FOR THE FUTURE I. Purpose: To investigate planned USAF equipment and doctrinal/procedural enhancements needed to meet future air interdiction requirements II. Thesis: Air interdiction has a long history of effectiveness from the Second World War to the present day. To maintain and enhance that effectiveness in the face of increasingly mobile and lethal ground forces protected by increasingly sophisticated and effective air defense systems, the USAF and her sister-Service air components must improve both interdiction related systems and the procedures used in their employment. III. Discussion: Interdiction campaigns from World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam shared certain characteristics. They required air superiority as a prerequisite. They were almost totally daytime operations that allowed the enemy some level of movement at night. Finally, they concentrated on transportation systems and infrastructure more than on enemy force, and they were most successful when coordinated with the action of the ground forces. Future air interdiction efforts should build on these lessons and attempt to eliminate the shortfalls they show. Systems to improve interdiction capability are being developed and procured in support of the U.S. Air-Land Battle (ALB) Doctrine accepted in 1982 and in the Follow-On Forces Attack (FOFA) Concept endorsed by NATO in 1984. These systems consist of three types; reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA); Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence (C3I); and attack systems. These improvements will go a long way the historic shortfalls in interdiction capability but new procedures will be required to fully exploit those capabilities. A new doctrinal framework for interdiction is required in concert with the focus of ALB doctrine. Procedural changes built around mission-type interdiction orders will best support this doctrinal framework. IV. Conclusion: USAF is well on its way to improved interdiction capability with the planned hardware enhancements but needs to pursue the recommended doctrinal and procedural changes to fully exploit those capabilities. AIR INTERDICTION--FOCUS FOR THE FUTURE OUTLINE Thesis Statement. Focused equipment improvements are adding quantum capabilities to the Army/Air Force team's ability to interdict enemy forces long before they can be brought into battle but complementing procedural and doctrinal changes are required to fully exploit these new capabilities. I. History of Air Interdiction A. WW II B. Korea C. Vietnam - Rolling Thunder & Linebacker II. Interdicion System Improvements A. Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition (RSTA) Systems B. C3I Systems C. Attack Weapons Systems III. Improvements - Doctrine and Procedures A. New Framework for Interdiction Missions B. Mission Orders AIR INTERDICTION--FOCUS FOR THE FUTURE Throughout history military geniuses have recognized the decisive advantages gained by interposing themselves between their enemy and his supplies or reinforcements. Fredrick the Great won by cutting off his enemies from their capital.1 Time and time again, Napoleon would position himself to defeat one enemy completely before another could intervene.2 The modern military tool to isolate an enemy on the battlefield would be an unbelievable fancy to these military giants but the principles necessary for its employment are the same as those Fredrick and Napoleon used so successfully. On the modern battlefield, airpower with its inherent range, flexibility, and firepower provides the commander with a powerful means of isolating and defeating an enemy. Current doctrine recognizes the importance of this "interdiction" mission and the U.S. Air Force lists it as one of only three tactical missions for airpower, the others being Counter-Air and Close-Air Support. Air interdiction consists of: air operations conducted to destroy, neutralize, or delay the enemy's military potential before it can be brought to bear effectively against friendly forces, at such distance from friendly forces that detailed integration of each air mission with fire and movement of friendly forces is not required. (DOD Dictionary of Military Terms) Air interdiction has a long history of effectiveness from the Second World War to the present day. To maintain and enhance that effectiveness in the face of increasingly mobile and lethal ground forces, protected by increasingly sophisticated and effective air defense systems, the USAF and her sister-Service air components must improve both interdiction related systems and the procedures used in their employment. History of Air Interdiction Air interdiction served as a powerful tool in all theaters of the Second World War. Chronologically, the first major success of interdiction was achieved without flying a single sortie. In 1940 after the startlingly effective success of his armor/air-team led Blitzkrieg, Hitler contemplated an invasion of England to subdue the last of his Western foes. His invasion fleet was poised in the Channel ports but before he could launch them he had to suppress the Royal Air Force's ability to interdict them as they crossed. His attempt led to the legendary Battle of Britain in which the RAF prevailed and whose continued existence made the cross-channel invasion impossible.3 A year later the British used interdiction of supplies decisively in the North African campaign. Rommel was on the Egyptian border, prepared for a final offensive. The British intensified their sea and air interdiction campaign from Malta and in November succeeded in destroying 77% of the supplies sent to the Africa Corps. By December Rommel was down to 40 tanks, his ammunition stocks were at a critical level and the Italians could not get anything to him. He had no choice but to withdraw from Egypt and Tobruk. Only the suppression of Malta with massive air attacks freed Rommel to resume his offensive the following year.4 Air interdiction continued to play a critical role in the European Theater throughout the war. Operation Strangle, the interdiction campaign in Italy, made breaching of the Gustav line possible by first reducing the Germans resupply from 88,000 tons per day to only 4,000. The impact on vehicles and roads was just as important: What made an enormous difference, however was the German inability to move reserves to the front or to move forces laterally across it. The interdiction campaign had taken such a toll of trucks and trains, and had done so much damage to bridges, railroads, and roads, that the Germans were dependent on foot power and animal transport to move anywhere.5 Interdiction played a similarly crucial role in the preparations for the Normandy invasion. The concentrated effort by Allied air to isolate the beach defenders from reinforcements was an unqualified success. Von Rundstedt, overall commander of German forces opposing the Normandy landing summed it up best: It was all a question of air force, air force, and again air force. The main difficulties that arose at the time of the invasion were the systematic preparations by your air force: the smashing of the main lines of communications,....We had prepared for various eventualities ... that all came to nothing or was rendered impossible by the destruction of railway communications,.... The second thing was the attack on the roads...so that it was impossible to move anyone at all by day.... That also meant that bringing up of the armoroured divisions was also out of the question, quite impossible. Those were the main things that caused the general collapse.6 In the Pacific, MacArthur's entire island hopping campaign was predicated at the operational level on interdiction to isolate enemy strong points that could then be reduced at will or simply bypassed. At the strategic level, the Southwest Pacific Campaign was aimed at cutting the supply lines to the Japanese home islands to strangle the war industries. Airpower and the submarine force made interdiction successful at both levels. In Korea interdiction again played a part in both offensive and defensive operations although with more mixed results than seen in World War II. In both the defense of the Pusan perimeter and the retreat from the Yalu, reducing the southern flow flow of Communist forces and supplies allowed the ground force the time to regroup for a cohesive defense. Yet there were problems: There is little doubt that in the first months of the war, thousands of the interdiction missions flown by the Air Force were valueless because of inadequate targeting. "The Air Force bombed and bombed the main routes...but achieved very little because they didn't understand Chinese techniques. The Communists simply weren't on the main routes."7 In the longer run, interdiction did have a major impact. The Chinese were never manpower limited. Because of the interdiction campaign they were totally denied movement in the daytime and were severely restricted at night because of the damage done to the North Korean transportation system. Consequently the size of China's forces in Korea was restricted by the number of men for whom supplies could be brought south from the Yalu.8 In Viet Nam the story of interdiction is even more confused and controversial. According to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in Congressional Testimony, the Rolling Thunder campaign from 1965 to 1968 had three objectives; reducing infiltration to the south, showing the North Vietnamese that continued aggression would be costly, and bolstering the morale of the South Vietnamese. Obviously only the first of these is truly a military objective; the others are psychological and belong more in the political realm.9 In spite of severe bombing restrictions, a series of bombing halts, bad weather, and an elusive enemy, Rolling Thunder did have an impact. As President Johnson said during a 1968 visit to Viet Nam: Through the use of air power, a mere handful of you men --as military forces are really reckoned--are pinning down several hundred thousand--more than half a million--North Vietnamese. You are increasing the cost of infiltration. You are imposing a very high rate of attrition when the enemy is engaged, and you are giving him no rest when he withdraws.10 The President's words not withstanding, Rolling Thunder did not preclude the continuation of the insurgency in the south or a sufficient buildup of supplies for launching the Tet offensive of 1968. In 1972, interdiction played a more forceful role as American ground forces were being drawn down. The Linebacker operation put U.S. air power as the primary block in front of the North Vietnamese Easter Offensive. Linebacker, together with the mining [of Haiphong], tactical air support in the South, and stiffening Southern resistance, wrecked Hanoi's capacity to conduct offensive warfare. Moreover the bombing and mining restricted all Northern imports, and the Politburo found its populace in danger of starving.11 The result was an end to the offensive and a move to the negotiating table. All these interdiction campaigns shared certain characteristics. They required air superiority as a prerequisite. They were almost totally daytime operations that allowed the enemy some level of movement at night. Finally, they concentrated on transportation systems and infrastructure more than on enemy force, and they were most successful when coordinated with the action of the ground forces. Future air interdiction efforts should build on these lessons and attempt to eliminate the shortfalls they show. Interdiction Systems Improvements Systems to improve interdiction capability are being developed and procured in support of the U.S. Air-Land Battle (ALB) Doctrine accepted in 1982 and in the Follow-On Forces Attack (FOFA) Concept endorsed by NATO in 1984. These systems consist of three types; reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA); Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence (C3I); and attack systems.12 The centerpiece of RSTA systems for improved interdiction is the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS). Joint STARS, now in full-scale development by the Air Force and Army, consists of a multi-mode airborne radar on a modified Boeing 707 airframe (E-8) with operator stations on the aircraft and in mobile Ground Station Modules (GSMs). The radar is capable of locating and tracking vehicles continuously across a wide (Corps-size) frontage more than 100km behind the FLOT.13 High speed processors and data links enable both onboard operators and GSM users a near instantaneous picture of movement throughout the coverage area. Mass digital recording and playback of successive radar sweeps builds a moving picture of traffic patterns. Coupled with its high accuracy, this picture allows the operator not only to analyze where units are currently but to predict their future position on the battlefield. The implications for interdiction are obvious. With Joint STARS' picture of movement, the commander can better see where the enemy's forces are concentrating and thus identify those critical units which should be the priority interdiction targets. Just as importantly, by tracking these targets over time, even if they stop, Joint STARS can provide attacking aircrews with updated target position or updated expected time-of-arrival in a pre-planned target-area-of-interest (TAI). Another new RSTA system important to the improvement of interdiction is the Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV). Equipped with TV or FLIR sensors and characterized by fairly long endurance, UAVs can provide real-time surveillance along likely approach corridors and over suspected assembly areas. With Joint STARS' "Big Picture" UAVs could be used to fill in any blanks caused by radar masking and to provide more detailed imagery of suspected high priority targets. The final set of RSTA systems that will assist in the interdiction campaign is contained in the Advanced Tactical Air Reconnaissance System (ATARS). ATARS brings the advantages of digital sensor technology to the tactical reconnaissance units of the USAF, USN, and USMC. It provides a digital tape-based reconnaissance suite to replace the film-based systems currently in use. The difference in timeliness is analogous to the difference between using a 35mm camera versus a camcorder at home. One must be processed; the other is ready immediately. By providing that instant picture, ATARS will make the manned and unmanned systems of the three services more timely and consequently more useful for the interdiction mission. These systems all improve the ability of the commander to "see" the battlefield, day and night. Their total effect will provide both the interdiction planner and the crews flying the missions with a more accurate, complete, and timely picture of the battlefield. As important as these RSTA improvements are, they are largely useless unless the C3I system can turn their information into meaningful and timely intelligence and then execute the commander's decision effectively. Three new programs offer help in this respect. The Enemy Situation Correlation Element (ENSCE) is the USAF's portion of the Army's Joint Tactical Fusion Program (JTFP). While JTFP may sound nuclear in nature it is not. The program aims at bringing automation to the correlation of intelligence from multiple sources. By moving the intelligence officer out of grease boards and manual message assimilation into the world of computer driven and update threat displays, JTFP will increase the accuracy, completeness, and timeliness of the intelligence picture. ENSCE's impact on interdiction will be twofold. First, by giving the Joint Force Air Component Commander (JFACC) and his staff a better picture of the battlefield, they can plan a more effective interdiction campaign. An added benefit of the jointness of the program is that with the Air Force and Army systems feeding each other, both component commanders will be working against the same threat picture. This will undoubtedly make coordination and joint decision making easier and more effective. ENSCE's does not only benefit the headquarters staff. It also helps the aircrew at the squadron. ENSCE will feed Intelligence Workstations at the wing and squadron level to provide complete and current intelligence in a readily usable form to crews planning air missions, particularly interdiction missions. Another system that will aid the interdiction campaign is the Ground Attack Control Capability (GACC) upgrade to the Modular Control Equipment (MCE) in the Tactical Air Control Center (TACC) . MCE is the digital control and display system that is replacing conventional radar scopes in the TACC. GACC is a software enhancement that provides the TACC's controllers with Joint STARS input and menu-driven capabilities for rapidly matching targets with available aircraft and weapons. The controller can then pass updated mission, target, and threat information to the airborne aircrew. Passing information to aircrews is the last area of improvement under the C3I heading. Updating target location, target type, time-over-target, and enemy threats for a pilot flying a high-performance aircraft in a combat environment has never been easy. In today's communications jamming environment it will be doubly hard. Yet to effectively capitalize on the increased ability to see deep that information must get to the crew. The most used current procedure is for the pilot to copy the information with a grease pencil on his canopy, an amazing throwback in a multi-million dollar, fully computerized combat aircraft. Luckily, a better "grease pencil" is at hand. The Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS) is a high-rate, time-distributed, digital data link under development for all Services. JTIDS was designed and is being fielded to support the Counter-Air campaign (Anti-Air Warfare for Naval types). It allows rapid passing of data among all users at a rate that approaches real-time. Already installed in the TACC, onboard ships, and on the E-3A Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), JTIDS has recently completed testing on the F-15. Although too large for many fighters in its current configuration, JTIDS, or a similar system could be that final link in the information chain needed to fight a focused interdiction campaign against moving maneuver elements. All the RSTA and C3I improvements in the world would be useless without aircraft and weapons suited for the interdiction mission. In fact improvements in the planes and weapons are to some extent ahead of the supporting improvements already discussed. In the aircraft category, the prime improvement is a concerted effort to improve the night attack capability of tactical fighters. The weapons improvements aim at improved lethality against armor and increased standoff for increased flexibility and survivability. For several years the Tactical Air Forces' priority development and procurement program has been the Low Altitude Navigation, Targeting, Infra-Red, Night (LANTIRN) system. LANTIRN consisted of two externally mounted pods that provide Foward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) and Terrain Following Radar (TFR) for low-altitude, high-speed navigation and target acquisition at night below the weather. LANTIRN will enable both the multi-role F-16 and the new dual-role F-15E to provide a quantum improvement in the USAF's night attack capability. This capability will largely eliminate the night sanctuary from interdiction enemy forces have enjoyed in the past. The arrival of the F-15E adds a new dimension to the interdiction campaign. In terms of numbers, the F-15E will almost double the aircraft available for deep operation relieving some of the pressure on the venerable F-lll, for the past decade USAF's only tactical deep strike aircraft. Just as importantly, by retaining all the air-to-air prowess that has made it famous, the F-15E provides an anti-air capability for deep interdiction missions that has long been missing. Pending weapons improvements will also increase the capability of the air component to conduct a focused air interdiction campaign. The recent fielding of the GATOR air delivered mine system provided a capability to delay and disrupt armor on the move. Just as importantly, it can be used to deny approach corridors an enemy might prefer. The Sensor Fused Weapon (SFW), now in development, will provide a much improved area armor-kill weapon vice the currently used Mk-20 Rockeye. Finally the fielding of an Imaging Infra-Red seeker for the Maverick anti-tank missile will open the night window for precision armor attack while also offering improved survivability through limited standoff. Even more survivability gains and flexibility will be derived from the Modular Standoff Weapon (MSOW) system. A cooperative development effort between a number of NATO nations, MSOW will consist of a family of air-delivered standoff missiles with varied ranges and payloads. Two of the three variants will be applicable to interdiction. These improvements in RSTA, C3I, and weapons systems will go a long way in eliminating the historic shortfalls in interdiction capabilities. The movement of the F-15E into the interdiction mission will assist in providing the air superiority that interdiction has always required. The improvements in RSTA and the incorporation of LANTIRN will deprive the enemy of the sanctuary of night. The total package of RSTA, C3I, and weapons will allow the air component to focus more directly on the enemy and less on the infrastructure that supports him. Yet the equipment by itself is not enough. New procedures will be required to fully exploit these new capabilities. Doctrinal and Procedural Changes Focusing interdiction on the enemy will require both doctrinal and procedural changes. Current Air Force doctrine as contained in AFM 1-1 defines Air Interdiction (AI) as missions "to delay, disrupt, and destroy" enemy combat potential before it reaches the battlefield. A subcategory called Battlefield Air Interdiction (BAI) consists of those AI missions which must be coordinated with friendly land forces. While these definitions are easily grasped they lead to a managerial approach to interdiction by failing to focus the mission on the enemy. The Air-Land Battle Doctrine as reflected in FM 100-5 does a better job by stating what interdiction (deep operations) is meant to do: At both [tactical and operational] levels, the principle targets of deep operations are the freedom of action of the opposing commander and the coherence and tempo of his operations....Because of the scarcity of resources with which to perform these activities, deep operations must be focused against those enemy capabilities which most directly threaten the success of projected friendly operations. These must be attacked decisively, with enough power to assure the desired impact. That will be the more true when--as will frequently be the case--seizure and retention of the initiative depend on successful prosecution of deep operations. From this concept three types of interdiction missions emerge; (1) those that create an environment in which the enemy commander has limited freedom of action and is less capable of generating coherence and tempo; (2) those that deny specific courses of action and attack his coherence and tempo; and (3) those that focus on protecting friendly operations from the enemy's residual capability. Using interdiction to create an environment in which the enemy is at a disadvantage is, in the main, what the earlier historic examples detailed. To be effective these mission must be focused. Prime commodities such petroleum products or critical transportation systems or nodes such as the railway system or ports would appear appropriate. The mining of Haiphong and the concerted attacks against POL in Europe in World War II are good examples. In both cases this and supporting interdiction missions denied the enemy commander the freedom to conduct sustained offensive operations. The second type of interdiction focuses on denying specific courses of action to the enemy and disrupting his cohesion and tempo at a particular time and place. This interdiction would focus on specific routes and chokepoints to deny them to the enemy. It could alternatively aim at particular enemy formations as the FOFA concept suggests. Mission orders for this type of interdiction might read: Conduct attacks along the Blue River to deny the enemy the ability to attack in sector within the next 36 hours or Conduct attacks, if required, to ensure the 3rd MRD arrives at the FLOT at least 12 hours after the 1st TD in order to shatter the planned cohesion of the enemy's attack The first type of general interdiction would be a mission assigned to the Joint Air Component Commander (JFACC) by a CINC or Joint Task Force Commander without particular concern with the current ground situation. In the second type of AI, the CINC would ensure that the missions assigned to his air and land (or naval) commanders were complementary and formed a unified plan of action. In the final type of interdiction, the air mission is dependent on and must be closely coordinated with the other components. In protecting friendly courses of action, the JFACC focuses on supporting friendly operations and assures the enemy cannot interfere with planned operations. Typical missions might include: Deny resupply of POL and ammunition to the forces facing 3rd Marines in order to facilitate continued attack at H-hour or Guard the right flank of Third Army in order to maintain security of its supply lines as it advances The second example is exactly what happened in 1944 when XIX TAC protected Patton's southern flank as he drove across France. Air was so successful in its mission that the commander of the 20,000 German troop south of the Loire asked that XIX TAC's commander be present for the Germans' surrender on 7 September 1944.14 The advantage of mission oriented interdiction is that it allows the CINC and the JFACC to focus interdiction much more sharply that does the current procedure of apportionment and allocation. Under the current system the JFACC recommends, and the CINC approves, the division of air effort, on a percentage basis, among the different types of air missions (AI, CAS, Counter-Air, etc.). While the mission areas are prioritized, the current Air Tasking Order and the resultant Fragmentary Order simply do not provide adequate definition of the object of the apportioned missions nor do they provide for prioritization within mission areas. Furthermore, since they dictate tasks to be accomplished (sorties flown, specific targets struck) instead of the mission to be accomplished, they deny the executing subordinate the flexibility to respond intelligently to the rapidly changing battlefield. The current system provides for a very managerially efficient allocation of sorties but fails to provide the intent and focus that is required for an effective interdiction campaign. Mission oriented interdiction tasking provides the required direction and the flexibility. The combination of mission oriented interdiction tasking and the interdiction improvements now underway promises to keep interdiction a powerful tool for the military commander. The increased ability to see deep in all weather during the day and night provided by Joint STARS and the other RSTA improvements will provide a basis for planning and executing a concerted and timely interdiction campaign aimed at the enemy's forces. The C3I improvements will provide the link between the improved picture of the deep battle and the crews who fly the missions. The weapons improvements will enhance their effectiveness against enemy maneuver units and deny the enemy his historic night sanctuary. Finally, mission oriented tasking will enable the commander to effectively employ the interdiction weapon to shape the battlefield and isolate the foe. Footnotes 1 T. R. Phillips, Roots of Strategy, (Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, PA, 1985), p. 318-322. 2 IBID., p 405. 3 Richard Hough, The Battle of Britain, (W. W. Norton & Co., New York, 1989), p. 103 4 John A. Warden, The Air Campaign, (National Defense University Press, Washington, DC, 1988), p. 87 5 IBID, p.90 6 William W. Momyer, Air Power in Three Wars, (Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1978), p. 166 7 Max Hastings, The Korean War, (Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 1987), p. 255 8 IBID., p. 277 9 Momyer, p. 173 10 IBID., p. 192 11 Mark Clodfelter, The Limits of Air Power, (The Free Press, New York, NY, 1989), p. 173 12 Unless otherwise noted material in this section comes from a briefing given by the author and LTC Mark Kogel, USA, to the Department of Defense FOFA Working Group in June 1988. The briefing was subsequently given to the NATO Conference of National Armament Directors by flag officers from the U.S. Army and Air Force in September 1988. 13 U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, New Technology for NATO: Improving Follow-On Forces Attack, (U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1987), p. 41 14 United States Air Force, Office of Air Force History, Condensed Analysis of the Ninth Air Force in the European Theater of Operations, (U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1987), p. 29 Bibliography Bingham, Price T., Air Power and the Defeat of a Warsaw Pact Offensive, Air University Press, Maxwell AFB, AL, 1987. Clodfelter, Mark, The Limits of Air Power, The Free Press, New York, NY, 1989. Hastings, Max, The Korean War, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 1987. Hough, Richard, The Battle of Britain, W. W. Norton & Co., New York, 1989. Momyer, William W., Air Power in Three Wars, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1978. Phillips, T. R., Roots of Strategy, Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, PA, 1985. Skinner, Douglas W., Airland Battle Doctrine, Center for Naval Analysis, Alexandria, VA, 1988. U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, New Technology for NATO: Improving Follow-On Forces Attack, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1987. United States Air Force, Office of Air Force History, Air Interdiction in World War II, Korea. and Vietnam, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1986. United States Air Force, Office of Air Force History, Condensed Analysis of the Ninth Air Force in the European Theater of Operations, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1987. United States Air Force, Air University, History of U.S. Airpower, Extension Course Institute, Gunther AFS, AL, 1983. Warden, John A., The Air Campaign, National Defense University Press, Washington, DC, 1988.
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