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Air Defense Artillery
First to Fire

Today, as the Army prepares to enter the 21st Century, ADA is leading the way technologically and doctrinally (the basic doctrine on fighting in the air component of the AirLand Battlefield has been promulgated in FM 44-100, US Army Air Defense Operations).

The Total Army Analysis [TAA] is a biennial, multiphased force-structuring process that generates the tactical support forces and general purpose forces necessary to support divisional and non-divisional combat forces in executing the national strategy, given resource constraints and end-strength guidance. The TAA results are used to develop the Army POM force. The TAA-05 process resulted in the ADA force structures that consists of a mixture of AC and ARNG units. The ADA allocations for the theater army and corps are two AAMDCs, two theater ADA brigades, four ADA corps brigades, twelve PATRIOT battalions (two of which are three-battery ARNG battalions at theater level, with an additional mission supporting I Corps), one THAAD battalion, eleven ARNG Avenger/Stinger MANPADS and MANPADS battalions, and two JTAGS detachments. Each division contains an AMD battalion, and each armored cavalry regiment (ACR), ACR - light (L), and heavy or light eSBs contains one AMD battery. The TAA-05 also confirmed the 111th ADA Brigade missioning to I Corps and the 35th ADA Brigade assuming a theater-level mission. The TAA-05 force structure changes should occur during FY00-05. The TAA-07 process, currently underway, will define force structure changes to take place between FY02 and FY07.

ADA originated from the Coast Artillery Corps which was created after the Revolutionary War to defend the US coasts against naval attack and bombardment. Its proud lineage includes battle streamers which date from the War of 1812. As the US entered WWI in 1917, War Department planners saw the need for an Antiaircraft Artillery (AAA) Corps to protect the ground forces from the new threat of aerial bombardment. German Zeppelins, for example, had made 51 bombardments in England alone, inflicting $7 million in damages and 2000 casualties. The Fokker Dr. 1 and DVII were providing close air support to German ground forces. Coast Artillery units were detailed as AAA units because they were the only artillerymen with experience in firing at moving targets. They were also available, since the threat of the German fleet to the East Coast had been neutralized by an allied blockade.

AAA units entered WWI with neither doctrine nor weapons. Yet they fought with distinction in support of the Allied Expeditionary Force. Doctrine was developed "on the fly" by a resourceful cadre of officers. Training at the Coast Artillery School began in 1918 with a follow on course taught in France at the incipient AAA school. Weapons were procured from the French. Good training and dedication to excellence, characteristic of ADA ever since, belied the humble beginnings of the AAA corps. US AAA units used 1/20th the ammunition of their allied counterparts. A US AAA unit compiled the best kill record of any allied AAA unit.

The AAA Corps entered WWII in a manner that would eventually prove the branch motto: "FIRST TO FIRE". Air Defenders were the first Army units to engage the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. They covered the withdrawal to Bataan in the Philippines. Four months later, starved, sick and short of supplies, AAA units were still fighting, having shot down 82 enemy planes and earning a dozen Distinguished Service Crosses, many Silver Stars and the Presidential Unit Citation.

In Europe, AAA units were thoroughly integrated into US field armies. AAA units were among the first ashore on D-Day and not only provided air cover for the beach head but assisted in destroying the enemy bunkers on the heights overlooking the beaches. AAA units defended the Remagen bridge with the most concentrated defense in history.

At the end of WWII, the AAA Corps was established separately from the Coast Artillery. During the Korean War AAA units at Suwon airbase were the first Army units to engage the invading North Korean Forces. Throughout the war the tremendous firepower of Air Defender's was used to break the stalemate of many battles such as Heartbreak Ridge and Porkchop Hill.

The AAA Corps grew during the Cold War period as the USSR developed both nuclear weapons and the intercontinental bomber force to deliver them. Captured German rocket technology was fully exploited and led to the development and fielding of hundreds of ADA missile batteries around the US. As the Soviet bomber threat waned in the 1960's, the focus of ADA doctrine shifted to defense of maneuver forces.

In Vietnam, the US enjoyed virtual air supremacy. Nevertheless, ADA units distinguished themselves in providing fire support to ground forces, earning more than 450 medals for valor and receiving more than 1000 Purple Hearts. In Operation URGENT FURY, in 1983, Stinger teams went into Grenada on the assault echelon of the 82d Airborne Division. In Operation JUST CAUSE in Panama (1988), 10% of the total enemy casualties were inflicted by one Vulcan platoon from the 7th ID.

Clearly understanding the importance of enemy and friendly airpower in the desert, campaign planners in Operation DESERT STORM interrupted the initial airflow of the 82d Airborne Division into theater so that more ADA could be quickly inserted. D-Day for ADA in DESERT STORM was not 24 February 91 when the ground campaign began, but rather August 1990 when B/2-7 ADA (Patriot), commanded by CPT Joe D'Antona (USMA '81) became operational at Dhahran airbase. Starting with only a theoretical capability against tactical ballistic missiles in August 1990, the requisite software was developed and fielded and 500 new missiles were built by the time the ground campaign began in February. Eight more software upgrades were delivered during the course of DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM.

During DESERT STORM, ADA was involved everywhere, from defending critical assets and activities in the divisions and corps to defending critical assets in Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey. 10th ADA Brigade from Germany commanded a task force which included Dutch, US and Israeli Patriot batteries in defense of Tel Aviv and Haifa. ADA lieutenants were debriefed at the Israeli Defense Forces "Pentagon" after each Scud attack. As their dependents celebrated Christmas, the soldiers and officers of Task Force 4-43 ADA began loading aircraft at three different locations in Germany. Within twenty nine hours of "wheels up" for the first aircraft, the TF 4-43 ADA was operational in Israel in two locations.

TF 4-7 ADA (Patriot) deployed from Germany to Incirlik Turkey where they provided ADA protection to critical assets poised at Iraq's "back door". TF 2-43 ADA (Patriot) deployed from Germany & was attached to 11th ADA Brigade, providing Scud defense of King Khalid Military City in Saudi Arabia. TF 8-43 ADA (Patriot) deployed from Germany and provided general support to VII Corps.

4-5 ADA/1st Cavalry Division deployed the first Army's Avenger Battery in DESERT STORM/SHIELD and was one of the Army's first units to lose a soldier to hostile fire when its Vulcans supported a Recon in Force into Iraq prior to the start of the ground campaign.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:33:55 ZULU