The Improved Direct Air Support Center CSC 1992 SUBJECT AREA Aviation EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Title: The Improved Direct Air Support Center Author: Major Steven H. Mattos, United States Marine Corps Thesis: By examining the history of the Direct Air Support Center, we can see how its role as the link between the ground combat forces and Marine aviation will continue to be a critical factor on the future battlefield. Background: This study will provide the reader with an historic overview of the control of Marine aviation by the Marine Air Support Squadron. It traces the evolution of air support control from its early beginnings during the "Small wars" of the nineteen twenties and thirties, to the present day developments towards small, highly capable integrated command and control packages, for Low Intensity Conflict contingency plans worldwide. Utilizing the Improved Direct Air Support Central (AN/TSQ-155) and the air/mobile Direct Air Support Central (AN/UYQ-3A), the Marine Air Support Squadron has developed an agency capable of providing the air control functions, and capabilities that are crucial to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) commander for the planning, and controlling of Marine aviation forces. THE IMPROVED DIRECT AIR SUPPORT CENTER OUTLINE Thesis Statement: By examining the history of the Direct Air Support Center, we can see how its role as the link between the ground combat forces and Marine aviation will continue to be a critical factor on the future battlefield. I. Early history of close air support A. Control of close air support missions B. Marine Actions in "Small Wars" (1920-1939) II. World War II A. Air Control systems B. Development of Marine Air Control System C. Marine Air Support Control Units (MASCU) III. Korean War A. Marine Air Control Group (MACG) B. 5th Air Force Joint Operations control system IV. Development of Marine Air Support Squadron (MASS) A. Direct Air Support Center (DASC) B. Air Support Radar Team (ASRT) C. MASS actions in Vietnam War (1965-1971) V. Improved Direct Air Support Center (AN/TSQ-155) A. Increased Information flow requirements B. Unit position information systems C. Computer support/digitized maps VI. Future System requirements A. Smaller command & control packages B. High Mobility Downsized (HMD) DASC As the Marine Corps force structure is reduced, command and control of Marine aviation will evolve from its present massive, manpower intensive system, into a system dominated by high speed computers and complex digital communications links capable of providing the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) greater control over its aviation assets. By examining the history of the Direct Air Support Center, we can see how its role as the link between the ground combat forces and Marine aviation will continue to be a critical factor on the future battlefield. The capability to conduct successful tactical air operations is essential to the execution of MAGTF operations. To this end, Marine Corps aviation was developed to meet all the requirements of the landing force.(7:par 1101) These requirements call for a flexible and responsive aviation combat element specifically tailored to support the ground combat element's scheme of maneuver. Together, these units become a balanced, self-sufficient, cohesive organization composed of air and ground arms and known as the Marine air-ground team. The use of Marine aviation in support of ground forces dates back to World War I, where Marine aircraft provided limited reconnaissance to ground forces. As Alfred A. Cunningham, the Marine Corps first aviator, remarked, "The only excuse for aviation in any service is its usefulness in assisting troops on the ground to successfully carry out their operations. "(7:par 1102a) This philosophy was expanded upon after the war, in that doctrine and techniques were developed as Marines fought in Haiti, Santo Domingo and Nicaragua during the nineteen twenties and early thirties. The first documented case of Marine aviation providing close air support to ground forces occurred on 10 June 1919. A patrol from the 44th company, 3rd Provisional Marine Regiment, while enroute to Guaybo Dulce, Dominican Republic, was supported by Marine air when the plane dropped one bomb on a group of bandits that was preparing to ambush the patrol.(9:1) Due to the lack of air to ground communications, coordination between the airplane and ground forces consisted of code panel signals to tell the pilot the location of friendly troops, and a message pickup system using poles and wire strung across a trail. This method of coordination proved fairly useful in breaking up enemy ambushes, strong points, evacuation of wounded, and the resupply of essential items.(4:13) These efforts led to the development of doctrine involving the coordination of close air support and the ground force's tactical scheme of maneuver. Although the tactics and doctrine of close air support was subsequently refined prior to World War II, the Marine Corps entered the conflict without adequate air control procedures due to the lack of a satisfactory air- ground communications system. As World War II progressed in the Pacific and Europe, two distinct air control systems evolved with two distinct command relationships. In the European theater, the Army Air Force air control system was designed to support long campaigns that covered immense operating areas, involving huge armies and air forces. Air support became "air cooperation", with parallel chains of command extending back to the theater commander. Early in the war close air support was controlled by Forward Air Controllers (FAC) in airplanes. This system of control was not popular due to the lack of reliable air-ground communications, and the constant threat of attack by German fighters. The system became more centralized with the creation of tactical bomb lines and pre-planned missions. Air requests were habitually telephoned to division through channels, then to corps, through army, to the tactical air commander. This system proved too slow for fast moving situations.. (4:14) Because of the unresponsiveness of the system some air commanders circumvented the bureaucratic procedures by establishing close relationships between their staff and the supported troops. The support provided to General Patton's army during its end run along the German left flank is a classic example of the proper use of close air support. During the operation, air controllers rode on the lead tanks of each armored column, which was supported by a division of fighter-bombers flying overhead in support. The number of destroyed German tanks and shattered roadblocks validated the value of this type of air control. The Navy-Marine Corps system accomplished similar results, but operated under different conditions. In the Pacific, most campaigns were amphibious operations, characterized as comparatively brief, intermittent, and extremely violent events. Initially, the Commander of the Amphibious Task Force (CATF) was responsible for providing air support to the ground forces. This control was exercised from the amphibious force flagship by the Tactical Air Commander located in the Air Control Center. This close coordination of ground and air action was improved, beginning with the Iwo Jima operation, when control was shifted ashore to the Tactical Air Control Center located at the Landing Force Headquarters. With the creation of the Tactical Air Control Center, the Landing Force commander was now able to coordinate all of his fire support systems (artillery, naval gunfire, and air) from a central location.(1:6) This centralized system of fire support proved to be more responsive and flexible than the Army's fire support system in Europe. Initially, all close air support missions were controlled by a master controller in the Tactical Air Control Center. As the war progressed however, and in response to insistent demands from ground unit commanders, actual control of close air support aircraft was gradually shifted to forward air controllers located with the forward ground elements. This change in procedures allowed the ground commander to employ his aviation assets in the same manner in which he employed his supporting artillery. This type of control characterized the policy of centralized command and decentralized control, whereby the ground unit directs the aircraft on to the specific target, with the Tactical Air Commander still retaining the authority to shift his available air power to accomplish the overall mission when necessary. To assist the Tactical Air Commander in accomplishing this task, Marine Air Support Control Units were formed. The Marine Air Support Control Unit organized on 21 October 1944, as a liaison group between the attacking ground forces and supporting aircraft during the amphibious operation, was originally designated the Provisional Air Support Command. Comprised of a Headquarters unit and four Landing Force Air Support Control Units (LFASCU), the Marine Air Support Control Unit reached its full potential during the Okinawa campaign. Air Liaison Parties (ALP), under the control of Landing Force Air Support Control Units, were assigned to combat units at the division, regiment, and battalion levels. The Air Liaison Parties provided the ground commanders with the capability of requesting and controlling close air support missions, as well as providing expert advise on the proper employment of Marine aviation. (1:8) The Provisional Air Support Command was disbanded exactly six months after its inception and all personnel and equipment were detached or transferred to Marine Air Support Control Units, Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet. After the war, a joint Army-Navy board was formed by the War Department to study the Army and Navy Air Support systems and make recommendations for the establishment of standardized procedures.(2:1) The Board determined that with the exception for terminology, the two systems were very similar. As for the Marine Corps, the Board recommended that a Marine Air Control Group be formed for each Marine Aircraft Wing. The post-war reorganization of Marine Air Support Control Units created two Marine Air Control Groups (MACG) consisting of Air Support Control, Air Defense Control and Ground Control Intercept units. This new organization was based on the concept of "centralized command and decentralized control", with one MACG in Fleet Marine Forces, Atlantic (FMFLant), and one in Fleet Marine Forces Pacific (FMFPac). As the Korean War unfolded, Marine Air Control Group-2 deployed with three units to the peninsula: Marine Ground Control Intercept Squadrons one and three, and Marine Tactical Air Support Squadron (MTACS)-2 (formerly Landing Force Air Support Control Unit). The MTACS consisted of two sections: an air support section which deployed with the ground combat unit, and an air defense section. While under the command of the Fifth Air Force Joint Operations Center (JOC), Marine Air Control Group-2 was forced to operate under the concept of "centralized command and control", a procedure that proved to be unresponsive in combat. Every air support request, regardless of priority, had to be channeled through the JOC control system which was riddled with delay and uncertainty.(6:17) Records kept by the U.S. Navy and First Marine Aircraft Wing reflected delays of up to 80 minutes with an average of 60-70 percent of the requested missions never being flown. (6:135) This lack of support would later fuel the controversy of whether the Marine Corps should possess its own organic aviation assets. Although dissatisfied with the constraints imposed by the Fifth Air Force JOC control system, MACG-2 was still able to provide remarkable close air support and early warning assistance to the ground combat units.(3:4) MACG-2 participated in operations in Pusan, Chosin Reservoir, Inchon-Seoul, the East Central and Western Front, and the armistice. The Korean War provided the newly established Marine Air Command and Control System (MACCS) with the opportunity to develop and test a number of new and innovative air command and control doctrine, procedures, and new equipment. As the war continued, the following organizations and air control agencies emerged as equipment modifications and enhancements were introduced into the fledgling MACCS system: o During the Chosin Reservoir operation and subsequent withdrawal, when terrain became a limiting factor for adequate ground control, a Tactical Air Direction Center (TADC) (forerunner of today's Airborne Direct Air Support Center) was established airborne to control and coordinate close air support operations.(10:1) o During September 1951, the AN/MPQ-14, a ground- controlled bombing system (predecessor of today's Air Support Radar Team) was developed by the Marine Corps and introduced into the Korean War. By the summer of 1952, as the system's reliability and accuracy improved, Fifth Air Force approved its operational employment in a close air support role. (5:62-63) During the twelve years between the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the Marine Air Command and Control System (MACCS) made significant changes in organization and technological development. The Marine Tactical Air Control Squadrons were redesignated Marine Air Support Squadrons (MASS) in February 1954. The Marine Air Support Squadron is comprised of a Direct Air Support Center (DASC), and three Air Support Radar Teams (ASRT). With the mission of coordinating assault support, close air support strikes, and air reconnaissance missions with other fire support agencies, the DASC co-locates with the senior ground combat element Fire Support Coordination Center (FSCC) to ensure that air support is responsive to the ground commander's needs. To accomplish this task, the MASS utilized the AN/TSQ-122 Direct Air Support Central. The AN/TSQ-122 was a large control system housed in a rigid fiberglass modular structure. To provide an echelon capability, the MASS also operated and maintained the AN/UYQ-3 air/mobile DASC. The AN/UYQ-3 could operate in a modified KC-130 aircraft, as well as on the back of a 2 1/2 ton truck. Together, the Marine Air Support Squadron was capable of supporting the full range of MAGTFs, up to and including a Marine Amphibious Force (MAF). In the early nineteen sixties, the Marine Corps replaced the Air Support Radar Team (ASRT) AN/MPQ-14 radar system with the next generation ground-bombing system--the AN/TPQ-10. In addition to providing the capability of day and night, all-weather precision control of aircraft, it [AN/TPQ-10] allowed for properly equipped aircraft to be controlled and ordnance released from the aircraft without the aid of the pilot. (1:12) In the spring of 1965 units of the Marine Air Command and Control System were deployed to Vietnam and provided air support to ground forces until 1971. In April 1965, MASS-2 and MASS-3 deployed to the Republic of Vietnam and provided Direct Air Support Centers in support of ground combat units. In addition, the Air Support Radar Teams established an impressive record of precision ground-controlled bombing. From 1966-1971, MASS-3 Air Support Radar Teams controlled more than 38,010 AN/TPQ- 10 missions, directing more than 121,000 tons of ordnance on 56,753 targets.(10:1) By the end of the war, the Direct Air Support Centers and Air Support Radar Teams participated in virtually every major Marine combat operation. During the twenty years following the Vietnam War, the Marine Air Support Squadron underwent numerous organizational changes, equipment enhancements and significant doctrinal growth. As the enemy threat to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) became increasingly sophisticated, the requirement for a Direct Air Support Center (DASC) capable of providing secure communications across the expanded battlefield and from over the horizon (OTH) stimulated the development of the AN/TSQ-155(V) Improved Direct Air Support Central (IDASC) and the AN/UYQ-3A air/mobile Direct Air Support Central. With the added mobility of the IDASC and AN/UYQ- 3A, the Marine Air Support Squadron is now capable of supporting separate MAGTF deployments simultaneously, as well as different echelons (ie, Marine Expeditionary Unit, Brigade, Force). The IDASC Product Improvement Program (PIP) will provide lightweight, highly mobile shelters as well as the capability to interface with, process, and manipulate data from external command and control agencies. When the IDASC Product Improvement Program is completed in fiscal year 1995, the Direct Air Support Center will have the following additional capabilities: o Increased communications capability to include single and multi-channel radios and tactical wire systems o Capability to interface with multiple Digital Communication Terminals (DCT), the Position Location Reporting System (PLRS), and Global Positioning System (GPS) o The system will have facsimile, teletypewriter, and high speed printer devices to receive Marine Tactical Standard (MTS) and Message Text Format (MTF) messages o Self-contained, mobile communications suites that provide the operator with access to secure communications using both digital switched/switching systems o Computer work station support that can digitally receive unit position information and graphically display the information in near-real time(8:4-8) As the Marine Corps reduces in size over the next decade, the Direct Air Support Center will be required to become more expeditionary. Concerns about the continued reductions in strategic lift assets (airlift and sealift), have prompted the Marine Corps to develop alternatives to the present command and control system. The High Mobility Downsized (HMD) DASC system is one option designed to meet this future requirement. The HMD DASC system will be housed in a shelter capable of being mounted on a High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV). One shelter with the associated equipment will be designated a system. Using the modular approach, up to three systems may be joined to increase the capacity when supporting up to a Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) or larger. The three system module will be the optimal system, however, the capability of using varying numbers of systems to compose a Direct Air Support Center, increases flexibility for supporting various sized MAGTFs.(11:1O-11) In conjunction with the modified AN/UYQ-3A airborne DASC, the Marine Air Support Squadron will be able to support all future Marine Corps contingency plans worldwide. It is estimated that the HMD DASC will require less than half the airlift to support a MEB sized contingency operation as the present IDASC (AN/TSQ-155). On the fluid, fast paced battlefield of tomorrow we will more than likely encounter a new generation of advanced missile/munitions systems to include high power microwave (HPM), directed energy, and enhanced kinetic energy. These systems will have greater mobility, range, and lethality while proving more difficult for the MAGTF to detect, track, and destroy.(1:31) As the critical link between the ground combat forces and Marine aviation, the Direct Air Support Center will have a direct influence on the success or failure of future combat operations. In the equation of war, the force with the most effective command and control system will have a distinct advantage. The "threat" still remains and because of that, the Marine Corps must continue to encourage research and development for advanced command and control systems. BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Bowling, William L., LtCol., USMC. "Marine Air Command and Control Systems: Past, Present and Future Role in Support of Marine Air-Ground Task Force Operations in Low Intensity Conflict." Study project. Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, 1990. 2. Joint Army-Navy Board, Washington, D.C. Report of Joint Army-Navy Board to Standardize Air Support Procedures, December 15, 1945. 3. Martin, Richard J., Jr., Maj., USMC. "The Marine Air Command and Control System: A Historical Perspective." Staff study. J.C. Breckinridge Library, Marine Corps Development and Education Command, Quantico, VA., April 3, 1987. 4. Megee, Vernon E., MajGen., USMC. "Tactical Air Support of Ground Forces" Marine Corps Gazette 39 (December 1955), 13. 5. Meid, Pat, LtCol., USMCR and James M. Yingling, Maj., USMC. Operations in West Korea--U.S. Marine Operations in Korea, 1950-1953. Vol V. Washington: Historical Branch, G-3 Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1962, pp. 62-63. 6. Montross, Lynn, et al.. The East--Central Front--U.S. Marine Operations in Korea, 1950-1953. Vol. IV. Washington: Historical Branch, G-3 Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1962, p.17. 7. U.S. Department of the Navy. Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. Marine Aviation, Fleet Marine Force Manual 5-1. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1979. 8. U.S. Marine Corps. Marine Corps Combat Development Command. Required Operational Capability (ROC), Revised, For the Direct Air Support Central (DASC), Draft, CCC 35.3.1B. 9. U.S. Marine Corps. Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. Historical Division. Reference service log requesting date of first close air support mission, August 3, 1950. 10. U.S. Marine Corps. Marine Corps Historical Center. Unit Files, Lineages and Honors (MASS). Washington, D.C. 11. U.S. Marine Corps. Marine Corps Systems Command. System Specification for the U.S. Marine Corps High Mobility Downsized (HMD) Direct Air Support Central DASC. March 2, 1992.
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