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LESSON 2

AIR ASSAULT OPERATIONS PLANNING

TASK

Identify the planning considerations for the five basic plans, the ground tactical plan, the landing plan, the air movement plan, the loading plan, and the staging plan which together comprise the air assault operations plan.

CONDITIONS

Given the subcourse material for this lesson, a training scenario, and extracts, as applicable, the student will complete the practice exercise at the end of this lesson.

STANDARD

The student will demonstrate his comprehension and knowledge of the task by identifying the planning considerations for the five basic plans, the ground tactical plan, the landing plan, the air movement plan, the loading plan, and the staging plan which together comprise the air assault operations plan.

REFERENCES

FM 90-4

This lesson discusses the detailed planning that is the key to any successful operation. But, in order to have a successful plan, you must first know the considerations that must be addressed in order to formulate a comprehensive plan and the correct procedures which must be followed to ensure that the plan is in the correct format and includes all the required information.

 

Learning Event 1:
IDENTIFY THE CHARACTERISTICS AND PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS FOR A GROUND TACTICAL PLAN

The air assault operation is planned backward from the objective. This means that the first plan developed is the one that covers what the AATF does when it finally gets where it is going. Air assault operations planning begins, then, with the ground tactical plan.

The foundation of a successful air assault operation is the commander's ground tactical plan, around which subsequent planning is based. The ground tactical plan specifies actions in the objective area to ultimately accomplish the mission and address subsequent operations.

To prepare a ground tactical plan, you must know its elements.

 

ELEMENTS OF THE GROUND TACTICAL PLAN

The ground tactical plan for an air assault operation contains essentially the same elements as any other infantry attack, but differs in that it is prepared to capitalize on speed and mobility in order to achieve surprise. Assault echelons are placed on or near the objective and organized so as to be capable of immediate seizure of objectives and rapid consolidation for subsequent operations.

If adequate combat power cannot be introduced quickly into the objective area, the air assault force must land away from the objective and build up combat power. The air assault force then assaults like any other infantry unit. The effectiveness of the air assault operation is thereby diminished.

The scheme of maneuver may assume a variety of possibilities, depending on the commander's evaluation of METT-T including in particular the availability of LZs in the area. The plan should include -

  • Missions of all task force elements and methods for employment.

  • Zones of attack, sectors, or areas of operations with graphic control measures.

  • Task organization to include command relationships.

  • Location and size of reserves.

  • Fire support to include graphic control measures.

  • Combat service support.

This plan is prepared by the AATF staff with input from all task force elements and is sufficiently detailed to facilitate understanding by subordinate commanders. It is imperative that all aircrews know this ground tactical plan and the ground commander's intent.

 

Learning Event 2:
IDENTIFY THE CHARACTERISTICS AND PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS FOR A LANDING PLAN

Once the ground tactical plan has been developed, you can develop a landing plan.

 

GENERAL

The landing plan must support the ground tactical plan. This plan sequences elements into the area of operations, ensuring that units arrive at designated locations and times prepared to execute the ground tactical plan.

There are a number of general considerations affecting the landing plan:

  • The availability, location, and size of potential LZs are overriding factors.

  • The AATF is most vulnerable during landing.

  • Elements must land with tactical integrity.

  • Troops are easily disoriented if the briefed landing direction changes and they are not kept informed.

  • Initially, there may be no other friendly units in the area. The AATF must land prepared to fight in any direction.

  • The landing plan should offer flexibility so that a variety of options are available in developing a scheme of maneuver.

  • Supporting fires (artillery, NGF, CAS, attack helicopters) must be planned in and around each LZ.

  • Although the objective may be beyond the range of supporting artillery fire, artillery or mortars may be brought into the LZ(s) early to provide fire support for subsequent lifts and on the objective.

  • The plan should include provisions for resupply and medical evacuation by air.

There are a number of options and criteria governing selection of landing zones (LZs).

 

SELECTION OF LANDING ZONES

There are nine criteria governing selection of landing zones.

 

Selection Criteria

LZs are selected by the AATFC or his S3 with technical advice from the AMC or his liaison officer. Small-unit leaders should be proficient in the selection of landing zones and also in the control of aircraft. They do so using the following criteria:

Location. It can be located on, near, or away from the objective, depending on the factors of METT-T.

Capacity. The size determines how much combat power can be landed at one time. This also determines the need for additional LZs or separation between serials.

Alternates. An alternate LZ should be planned for each primary LZ selected to ensure flexibility.

Enemy disposition and capabilities. Enemy troop concentrations, air defenses, and their capability to react to an AATF landing nearby are considered when selecting an LZ.

Cover and concealment. LZs are selected that deny enemy observation and acquisition of friendly ground and air elements while they are en route to and/or from (and in) the LZ.

Marking landing zones.

  • Day. A ground guide will mark the landing zones for the lead aircraft by holding an M16A1 rifle over his head, by displaying a folded VS-17 panel chest high, or by other identifiable means.

  • Night. The code letter Y (an inverted Y) is used to mark the landing point of the lead aircraft at night. Chemical light sticks or beanbag lights may be used to maintain light discipline (Figure 3). When more than one aircraft will be landing at the same landing zone, an additional light will be required for each aircraft.

FIGURE 3.  INVERTED Y.

FIGURE 3. INVERTED Y.

For observation, utility, and attack aircraft, each additional aircraft landing point will be marked with a single light emplaced at the exact point that each aircraft is to land. When marking landing zones for aircraft (CH-47, CH-53, CH-54), each additional landing point will require marking with two lights. They will be placed 10 meters apart and will be aligned in the aircraft direction of flight.

Obstacles. If possible, the AATF should land on the enemy side of obstacles when attacking and use obstacles tp protect LZs from enemy at other times. LZs must be free of obstacles. Engineers must be organized for contingency breaching of obstacles. For night and limited visibility operations, all obstacles will be marked with red lights. The following criteria will be used in marking obstacles:

  • If the obstacle is on the aircraft approach route, both near and far sides of the obstacle will be marked.

  • If the obstacle is on the aircraft departure route, the near side of the obstacle will be marked.

  • If the obstacle protrudes into the landing zone, but not in the flight route of the aircraft, the near side of the obstacle will be marked.

  • Large obstacles on the approach route will be marked by circling the obstacle with red lights.

Identification from the air. LZs should be readily identifiable from the air. They should be marked with chemical lights, preferably infrared type, if the assault is conducted with personnel wearing night vision goggles. This assumes that a friendly reconnaissance unit has reconned and marked the LZs.

Control of aircraft. Approaching aircraft are controlled by the use of arm-and-hand signals to transmit guidance for landing. The signalman is positioned to the right front of the aircraft where he can best be seen by the pilot. Signals at night are given by using lighted batons or flashlights in each hand. When using flashlights, care will be taken to avoid blinding the pilot. Batons and flash-lights will remain lighted at all times when signaling. The speed of arm movement indicates the desired speed of aircraft compliance with the signal.

Approach and departure routes. Approach and departure flight routes should avoid continued flank exposure of aircraft to the enemy.

Weather. Reduced visibility or strong winds may preclude or limit the use of marginal LZs.

A number of options can affect choice of landing zones.

 

Options to Consider

If there are options available in selecting LZs, the ones that best facilitate mission accomplishment are chosen. This choice involves whether to land on the objective or to land away from it and maneuver forces on the ground to the objective. Factors considered in making that determination are:

Combat power. This includes maneuver elements, firepower, and combat support assets that can be introduced into the area early in the operation. The timing usually depends upon the number of aircraft used and the availability of suitable LZs.

Enemy. This includes enemy strength and disposition in and around the objective area, including air defense systems.

Surprise. This is a goal that may be attained by careful use of terrain, cover and concealment, darkness, or reduced visibility created by weather or smoke. Surprise is sometimes achieved by landing on the objective.

Time. Time that is available for mission accomplishment. Limited time to complete the mission generally favors landing on or near the objective.

An air assault operation can use a single LZ or multiple LZs. The characteristics of each are discussed below.

 

Landing Zone Characteristics

In addition to deciding where to land in relation to the objective, a decision is made on whether to use a single LZ or multiple LZs.

Advantages of a single LZ.

  • Allows concentration of combat power in one location (if the LZ is large enough).

  • Facilitates control of the operation.

  • Concentrates supporting fires in and around the LZ. Firepower is diffused if more than one LZ preparation is required.

  • Provides better security for subsequent lifts.

  • Requires fewer attack helicopters for security.

  • Reduces the number of flight routes in the objective area, making it more difficult for enemy intelligence sources to detect the air assault operation.

  • Centralizes any required resupply operations.

  • Concentrates efforts of limited LZ control personnel and engineers on one LZ.

  • Requires less planning and rehearsal time.

Advantages of multiple LZs.

  • Avoids grouping assets in one location and creating a lucrative target for enemy mortars, artillery, and CAS.

  • Allows rapid dispersal of ground elements to accomplish tasks in separate areas.

  • Reduces the enemy's ability to detect and react to the initial lift.

  • Forces the enemy to fight in more than one direction.

  • Reduces the possibility of troop congestion in one LZ.

  • Eliminates aircraft congestion on one LZ.

  • Makes it difficult for the enemy to determine the size of the air assault force and the exact location of supporting weapons.

If the objective is designated by a number, the LZ should be designated by a letter or code word to avoid confusion and preclude mix-ups. This avoids having an objective (OBJ) and LZ with the same designator; for example, OBJ1 and LZ1.

Once the landing zones are determined, you can turn your attention to landing formations.

 

Landing Formations

Aircraft formations on the LZ should facilitate off-loading and deployment for the assault. The number and type of aircraft and the configuration and size of the LZ may dictate the formation. Because contact is expected in the LZ, elements are landed ready to employ fire and movement.

An LZ formation should not be a picture-perfect formation with standardized distances between aircraft. Landing aircraft rapidly select a safe landing area as close to concealment as possible to reduce troop exposure. If possible, the PZ formation is the same as the LZ formation. This gives troops a preview of the LZ and gives them an idea of where they will be located in relation to other elements upon landing.

Fire support for the LZs must be planned at this time, even if the plan is not to fire before or during the landing.

 

Fires to Support the Landing Plan

Frequently, it is desirable to make the initial assault without preparatory fires in order to achieve tactical surprise. However, preparations are planned for each LZ so that they can be fired if needed. The decision to fire a specific LZ preparation is made by the AATFC. The FSO should travel with the AATFC to expedite fires and changes to preplanned fires. Fires will be planned along all routes leading to the LZ.

Planned fires for air assault operations should be intense and short but with a high volume of fire to maximize surprise and shock effect. The fires should end just before the first assault element's landing.

When developing fire support plans, consideration is given to:

Deception. False preparations are fired into areas other than the objective or LZ areas.

Loss of surprise. A preparation of long duration may reduce the possibility of surprise.

Availability of fire support. The FSO considers assets that can fire a preparation and coordinates with the artillery unit to arrange the preparation. Preparations by tactical aircraft or attack helicopters may be the only viable alternative in many cases. Preparations by USAF tactical aircraft are requested through the FAC.

Significant targets. A known or suspected enemy force, regardless of size, warrants an LZ preparation.

Shifting fires. Artillery fire continues throughout the assault phase, shifting from the LZ to known or suspected targets.

Obstacles to landing and maneuver. Some ordnance used in preparation (artillery), bombs, napalm) can cause craters, tree blowdown, fires, and LZ obscuration and therefore may not be desirable.

Scheduling fires. Fires are scheduled to be lifted or shifted to coincide with the arrival times of aircraft formations.

Positive control measures. Control measures must be established for lifting or shifting fires.

Ammunition. Basic load and resupply limitations.

Because CAS station time is limited by fuel and enemy air defenses, the sequencing of support fire is carefully controlled by the FSO to obtain maximum, continuous support. To ensure that all fire support assets are utilized at the correct time, the FSO must be constantly informed as to the status of the flight. This allows him to orchestrate fires to coincide with the actual arrival of assaulting elements at the LZ (Figure 4).

FIGURE 4.  PREPARATORY FIRES AND AIR STRIKES.

FIGURE 4. PREPARATORY FIRES AND AIR STRIKES.

Another method of continuing assault fire support is to shift indirect fires to one flank, conduct a simultaneous airstrike on another flank, and use the attack helicopter teams 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.

 

Learning Event 3:
IDENTIFY THE CHARACTERISTICS AND PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS FOR AN AIR MOVEMENT PLAN

Working backward from the landing plan, you would next develop the air movement plan.

 

GENERAL

The air movement plan is based on the ground tactical and landing plans. It specifies the schedule and provides instructions for air movement of troops, equipment, and supplies from PZs to LZs. It also provides coordinating instructions regarding air routes, air control points, and aircraft speeds, altitudes, and formations.

The planned use of attack helicopters, including security and linkup locations (if different from the PZ), should also be included in the air movement plan. When operations involve multiple lifts from the same PZ, a lift table is prepared to ensure lifts are properly organized.

The air movement plan is normally developed in coordination with the AMC, or the aviation liaison officer, who provides technical assistance and recommendations.

The first step in developing an air movement plan is to develop tentative flight routes.

 

DEVELOPMENT OF TENTATIVE FLIGHT ROUTES

Tentative flight routes are developed to control, project, and sequence aircraft movement. Careful consideration is given to the terrain and enemy forces. The AATF S2, S3, and AMC assist the AATFC in developing flight routes. The basic methods of developing tentative flight routes are by map study or photo review when time permits, considering the locations of friendly units, enemy disposition and air defense systems, and PZs and/or LZs.

A flight route consists of a start point (SP), release point (RP), and a flight path between the two. The fire support plan should include fire planning along the flight routes.

Flight routes are determined by start and release points.

 

DESIGNATION OF START POINT AND RELEASE POINT

The first step is to identify tentative SPs and RPs (Figure 5). The distance from the PZ to the SP should be no less than 3 to 5 kilometers to allow aircraft to achieve the desired airspeed, altitude, and formation after liftoff.

FIGURE 5.  START AND RELEASE POINTS.

FIGURE 5. START AND RELEASE POINTS.

In this situation, the SP is within 3 to 5 kilometers of the PZ. It provides sufficient air maneuver space for helicopters to arrive at the SP in the prescribed en route formation at the proper airspeed.

The SP is located at a recognizable topographic feature for ease of identification. It facilitates lift-off from the PZ and heading into the wind. It is located to avoid known flight obstacles and enemy locations.

The RP is also 3 to 5 kilometers from the designated LZ. It is used as the final checkpoint for coordination of landing instructions and lifting or shifting of preparatory fires.

The distance from RP and the LZ is used by helicopter pilots to shift into landing formation, reduce speed, and land on their assigned LZ. The RP is also located at a recognizable topographic feature and avoids obstacles and enemy locations.

The distance from the RP to the LZ should allow the flight leader to reconfigure the formation and execute a tactical formation landing. In locating SPs and RPs, these considerations apply:

  • Locate 3 to 5 kilometers from PZs and LZs, respectively. This allows two to three minutes flying time for coordination of the flight's en route procedures.

  • Locate according to weather, obstacles, and enemy positions.

  • Locate to facilitate liftoff and landing into the wind by the best flight path.

Pertinent information in the air movement plan appears in a document called the air movement table.

 

AIR MOVEMENT TABLE

The air movement table -

  • Contains aircraft allocations.

  • Designates number and type of aircraft in each serial.

  • Specifies departure point, route to and from loading area, and loading, liftoff, and landing times.

The table is prepared jointly by the AATF staff and aviation personnel. It is completed in detail since it serves as the primary movement document. The table controls AATF movement from PZ to LZ as air assault forces fly to the LZ under radio listening silence (if possible).

The air movement table ensures that all personnel, equipment, and supplies are accounted for in the movement, that each aircraft is fully loaded, correctly positioned in the flight, and directed to the right LZ (see Figure 6, and Figure 6A). These tables must also include the refuel schedule for all lifts, if required.

FIGURE 6.  EXPEDIENT MOVEMENT TABLE.

FIGURE 6. EXPEDIENT MOVEMENT TABLE.

FIGURE 6A.  COMPLETED AIR MOVEMENT TABLE.

FIGURE 6A. COMPLETED AIR MOVEMENT TABLE.

Certain characteristics guide flight route development.

 

DEVELOPMENT OF FLIGHT ROUTES

Flight routes are developed based on tactical and technical factors. It may be necessary for a route to pass through an adjacent unit's sector. When that is the case, approval from that unit is obtained and coordination made. Regardless of route direction or location, certain criteria are considered.

Seldom are all characteristics present in any one situation. One or more may have to be omitted. Flight routes -

  • Are as short as possible, consistent with other considerations.

  • Avoid turns in excess of 45 degrees, when formation flying is required, to facilitate control of the aircraft formation.

  • Provide terrain masking to deny exposure to enemy observations, direct fire weapons, and radar acquisition, if possible.

  • Provide cover when terrain permits, placing terrain mass and/or vegetation between the enemy and the aircraft.

  • Provide for ease of navigation (day or night).

  • Avoid masking friendly fires, particularly supporting artillery.

  • Avoid known enemy units and air defense positions.

  • Avoid overflight of built-up areas.

Depending on how complex the air movement plan and how crowded the airspace, you may need to plan flight corridors.

 

FLIGHT CORRIDORS

When there is competition for airspace, it may be necessary to modify the flight route(s) and designate one or more flight corridors. The corridor reserves airspace around a flight route for AATF use, and prevents artillery, TAC AIR, and other elements from firing or flying through when it is in use.

Authority to establish a flight corridor is obtained from the brigade and/or division commander(s). Designated flight corridors are coordinated through airspace management channels. This ensures that airspace within corridors is not violated.

The corridor begins as a flight route and is then modified as required. The size of corridors varies. Normally, they extend 200 to 300 meters on either side of the designated flight route and 500 feet above and below the route flight altitude.

Helicopter formations operating at terrain flight (that is, low) altitudes do not require minimum altitude corridor designations. The upper air limit of the corridor may vary and would be specified by the headquarters establishing it.

If it is necessary to restrict the operational area to only those aircraft directly involved in the air assault operation, a restricted area can be established by the airspace management element.

The situation may demand a flight axis rather than a flight corridor.

 

FLIGHT AXIS

The flight axis is another variation of the flight route. It is a flight route that has width (like the corridor) but does not have airspace reserved to a specific altitude (as does the corridor).

The flight axis permits deviation laterally along the flight route but does not restrict the use of other assets. It gives the AMC a choice in selecting en route formations and freedom to alter direction without coordinating a new flight route.

Another variation on the basic flight route is the expedient flight route.

 

EXPEDIENT FLIGHT ROUTES

These routes are established with checkpoints. If time is not available to develop and disseminate PZs, LZs, and flight route information, the commander can define an expedient route by reference to checkpoints (see Figure 7).

FIGURE 7.  EXPEDIENT FLIGHT ROUTE.

FIGURE 7. EXPEDIENT FLIGHT ROUTE.

Regardless of how routes are designed or designated, all flight routes need some kind of control.

 

FLIGHT ROUTE CONTROL MEASURES

Control measures assist in navigation and provide control to ensure the AATF arrives in the LZ on time and in sequence.

Air control points (ACPs) designate each point where the flight route changes direction (see Figure 8). They include readily identifiable topographic features or points marked by electronic navigational aids. A route may have as many ACPs as necessary to control the air movement. The SPs and RPs are also ACPs.

FIGURE 8.  EN ROUTE REPORTING.

FIGURE 8. EN ROUTE REPORTING.

An ACP may be further designated as a communication checkpoint (CCP). A CCP is a point along the flight route that serial commanders report to the AMC. Radio transmissions are made only when necessary. If a report is required, the transmission is short. This is possible by using codes. For example, the short transmission "one, one, king" could mean that the first serial of Lift 1 is crossing CCP King.

Developing flight routes does not assign aircraft to a route. The planner must still designate routes to be used by the various units.

 

DESIGNATION OF ROUTES

Once tentative flight routes are identified, they are designated for use by each unit. When large groups of aircraft are used, dispersion is achieved by using multible routes. However, with large serials it is often necessary to use fewer routes, or even a single route, in order to concentrate available supporting fires. Also, the number of alternate and return routes may be limited.

Primary, alternate, and return routes to be used by each subordinate unit are designated. When selecting routes, the following factors are considered:

Interference with ground action. Overflying ground elements may interfere with their supporting fire. Flight routes should be clear of the gun-target line when possible.

Support of landing plan. To reduce vulnerability of the air assault force, flight routes should facilitate rapid approach, landing, and departure from selected LZs.

Enemy ground and air capabilities. Selected flight routes make maximum use of terrain, cover, and concealment to minimize enemy observation and target acquisition.

Available fire support. Flight routes allow support from all available resources.

Available air cover. Flight routes are identified in order to provide air cover for friendly forces en route.

Weather conditions. Flight routes remain usable based on prevailing weather during execution of the air assault operation.

Terrain. Flight routes use terrain to maximum advantage to reduce vulnerability of the aircraft formations.

Time (distance) from PZ to LZ. Flight routes are as short as possible to reduce flying time.

Having determined routes and assigned units to them, you must get the information out to the units and pilots you have assigned.

 

DISSEMINATION OF ROUTE INFORMATION

Maps or overlays containing flight route information are prepared at AATF headquarters and disseminated to subordinate and support units. (Overlays are often used.)

Flight routes and corridors are designated by a letter, number, or word (see Figure 9).

FIGURE 9.  DEPICTING FLIGHT ROUTES ON OVERLAY.

FIGURE 9. DEPICTING FLIGHT ROUTES ON OVERLAY.

How the aircraft get from PZ to LZ--the en route formation--is dictated by a number of factors.

 

EN ROUTE FORMATIONS

The flight's formation is dictated by the terrain, enemy situation, and the degree of control required. Regardless of the specific formation, aircraft are staggered and the distance between them varies according to the terrain being crossed. The AMC and/or flight leader selects the en route formation. The aircraft land in the formation specified by the air movement table.

 

Air Assault Formations Used

Heavy left or right. This requires a relatively long, wide landing area. It presents difficulty in pre-positioning loads. Also, it restricts suppressive fire by inboard gunners and provides firepower to the front and the flanks. (See Figure 10)

FIGURE 10.  HEAVY LEFT OR RIGHT.

FIGURE 10. HEAVY LEFT OR RIGHT.

Diamond. This formation allows rapid deployment for all-round security. It requires relatively small landing areas. The formation presents some difficulty in prepositioning loads and restricts suppressive fire of inboard gunners. (See Figure 11)

FIGURE 11.  DIAMOND FORMATION.

FIGURE 11. DIAMOND FORMATION.

Vee. It requires a relatively small landing area. Forces to the front are deployed rapidly. Suppressive fire of inboard gunners is restricted. There are difficulties in pre-positioning loads. (See Figure 12)

FIGURE 12.  VEE FORMATION.

FIGURE 12. VEE FORMATION.

Echelon left or right. This type formation requires a relatively long, wide landing area, and presents some difficulty in pre-positioning loads. The formation allows rapid deployment of forces to the flank. Suppressive fire by gunners is unrestricted. (See Figure 13)

FIGURE 13.  ECHELON LEFT OR RIGHT.

FIGURE 13. ECHELON LEFT OR RIGHT.

Trail formation. It requires a relatively small landing area and allows rapid deployment of forces to the flank. The formation simplifies pre-positioning loads and allows unrestricted suppressive fires by gunners (Figure 14)

FIGURE 14.  TRAIL FORMATION.

FIGURE 14. TRAIL FORMATION.

Staggered trail left or right. It requires a relatively long, wide landing area; simplifies pre-positioning loads; allows rapid deployment for all-round security. Gunners' suppressive fire is restricted somewhat. (See Figure 15)

FIGURE 15.  STAGGERED TRAIL LEFT OR RIGHT.

FIGURE 15. STAGGERED TRAIL LEFT OR RIGHT.

 

Battle Drill

In executing an air assault operation successfully, air assault battle drill must be performed. The first step is to ensure that the aircraft is loaded so that dismounting soldiers react promptly and contribute to mission accomplishment. Individual aircraft are always loaded in the same manner regardless of the formation used (Figure 16); dismounting in the LZ is the reverse of loading (Figure 17).

FIGURE 16.  LOADING INDIVIDUAL AIRCRAFT.

FIGURE 16. LOADING INDIVIDUAL AIRCRAFT.

FIGURE 17.  DISMOUNTING INDIVIDUAL AIRCRAFT.

FIGURE 17. DISMOUNTING INDIVIDUAL AIRCRAFT.

When the aircraft lands on a moderate slope, the loading and unloading method is altered. All-round security is attained in both the PZ and LZ. The need for complicated procedures is reduced by keeping the positions for men and equipment the same. On the LZ, this facilitates use of the bounding overwatch method of movement. This movement may be initiated in any direction. From the initial bounding overwatch formation, transition to traveling overwatch is made easily. (See Figure 18)

NOTE: Broken lines indicate movement by bounding overwatch after departure of aircraft.

FIGURE 18.  MOVEMENT OF BOUNDING OVERWATCH, DEPARTURE OF AIRCRAFT.

FIGURE 18. MOVEMENT OF BOUNDING OVERWATCH, DEPARTURE OF AIRCRAFT.

 

Dismounting. After the squad is dismounted, the bounding overwatch formation is used for movement (Figure 19). The squad is organized to fit an eight-man ACL. If the CH-60 Black Hawk is used, the remaining squad members can be included in the formation. If enemy contact is not expected, the squad uses the traveling overwatch technique (Figure 20).

FIGURE 19.  DISMOUNTED BOUNDING OVERWATCH.

FIGURE 19. DISMOUNTED BOUNDING OVERWATCH.

FIGURE 20.  DISMOUNTED TRAVELING OVERWATCH.

FIGURE 20. DISMOUNTED TRAVELING OVERWATCH.

Movement to a line or assault formation can be executed from the overwatch position. Additional squad members can be carried on the Black Hawk (Figure 21). See the following figures: the heavy left, heavy right formation (Figure 22); the echelon left, echelon right formation (Figure 23); the vee formation (Figure 24); the diamond formation (Figure 25); the trail formation (Figure 26); and the staggered trail left, staggered trail right formation (Figure 27).

NOTE: Broken lines indicate movement after aircraft depart.

FIGURE 21.  MOVEMENT TO LINE FORMATION.

FIGURE 21. MOVEMENT TO LINE FORMATION.

FIGURE 22.  MOVEMENT TO LINE FROM HEAVY LEFT, HEAVY RIGHT FORMATION.

FIGURE 22. MOVEMENT TO LINE FROM HEAVY LEFT, HEAVY RIGHT FORMATION.

FIGURE 23.  MOVEMENT TO LINE FROM ECHELON LEFT, ECHELON RIGHT FORMATION.

FIGURE 23. MOVEMENT TO LINE FROM ECHELON LEFT, ECHELON RIGHT FORMATION.

FIGURE 24.  MOVEMENT TO LINE FROM VEE FORMATION.

FIGURE 24. MOVEMENT TO LINE FROM VEE FORMATION.

FIGURE 25.  MOVEMENT TO LINE FROM DIAMOND FORMATION.

FIGURE 25. MOVEMENT TO LINE FROM DIAMOND FORMATION.

FIGURE 26.  MOVEMENT TO LINE FROM TRAIL FORMATION.

FIGURE 26. MOVEMENT TO LINE FROM TRAIL FORMATION.

FIGURE 27.  MOVEMENT TO LINE FROM STAGGERED TRAIL LEFT, STAGGERED TRAIL RIGHT FORMATION.

FIGURE 27. MOVEMENT TO LINE FROM STAGGERED TRAIL LEFT, STAGGERED TRAIL RIGHT FORMATION.

There are three basic ways to get from place to place during an air assault operation.

 

TERRAIN FLIGHT MODES

A specific en route fight altitude is not designated. Pilots may use one of three terrain flight modes as dictated by the mission and the threat (see Figure 28).

FIGURE 28.  TERRAIN FLYING.

FIGURE 28. TERRAIN FLYING.

The three modes are nap-of-the-earth flight, contour flight, and low-level flight.

 

Nap-of-the-Earth Flight

Nap-of-the-earth (NOE) flight is flown at varying airspeeds and altitudes as close to the earth's surface as possible while following the contours of the earth. It is a weaving flight path that remains oriented along the general axis of movement and takes advantage of terrain masking.

 

Contour Flight

This is flown at low altitude, conforming generally to the contours of the terrain. The flight is characterized by varying altitudes and airspeed.

 

Low-Level Flight

This is flown at low altitude, with constant heading, airspeed, and altitude to facilitate speed and ease of movement while minimizing detection. This mode is normally used only in rear areas.

 

Factors Affecting Flight Altitude

There are at least seven factors that determine altitude. Among them are -

Enemy. The greater the enemy air defense threat, the lower the flight altitude.

Terrain. Aircraft must clear all terrain obstacles and still reduce exposure to enemy air defense weapons and observation.

Navigation. It is usually easier to navigate at higher altitudes, but the risk of detection by the enemy is greater.

Weather. Ground fog or haze requires higher altitudes, whereas a low ceiling requires lower altitudes.

Flight distance. If the distance is short, the flight does not take time to climb to a higher altitude.

Need for surprise. Surprise is more likely when using low altitude.

Pilot fatigue. Terrain flying is more fatiguing for aircrews.

Fire support plays as important role in the air movement plan.

 

SUPPORTING FIRES ALONG THE FLIGHT ROUTE

Fires along the flight route are planned to suppress known or suspected enemy positions. These fires should be intense and of short duration. Multiple target engagement techniques should be used (groups, series).

Fire plans cover the PZs, flight routes, and LZs. Fire support plans include suppression of enemy air defense systems and smoke to protect formations from enemy detection. This requires aggressive fire planning by the FSO and direct coordination with FA and mortar FDCs and other FSEs.

All available fire support is used to suppress and/or destroy enemy weapons including TAC AIR, artillery, and attack helicopters.

Support may consist of smoke, chaff (air-dropped shredded aluminum foil to foul radar), or other countermeasures for suppressing or confusing enemy air defense systems.

On-call fires are planned along the flight route to ensure rapid adjustment on targets of opportunity.

During night operations, the use of illumination fire requires detailed planning. Illumination can interfere with night vision goggles and cause unsafe conditions.

Timing is a critical element in any air movement plan.

 

AIR MOVEMENT TIMING

A successful air assault operation is a sequence of actions carefully planned and precisely executed.

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 (landing time column, air movement table). The H-hour in air assault operations is equivalent to the attack time in a mission order. If delays are encountered due to weather or aircraft delays, the commander announces a new H-hour.

Normal distance from RP to LZ is 3 to 5 kilometers. Planning time for navigating this distance is approximately two minutes, depending upon airspeed. In order for the first aircraft to land in the LZ at H-hour, it must reach the RP and H-2 minutes (RP time column, air movement table).

The air movement table requires time for detailed planning. For large operations, an LO from the supporting aviation element is required.

The importance of an air movement table should not be underemphasized. As stated previously, Cý procedures should be planned to allow continued execution despite loss of radio communications. If the AMC and lift flight leaders have air movement tables in their possession, they can continue the mission without radio communication.

The following example 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 that en route times can be computed. Round up to the next higher whole number.

Flight time is computed using this formula:

T =   D x 60   ,
S x 1.84
where T
D
S
=
=
=
time in minutes
distance in kilometers (km)
ground speed in knots (AMC
provides this by computing
airspeed and converting it
to ground speed)

The figure 60 used in the formula converts hours to minutes. The figure 1.84 converts knots to kilometers per hour. A fraction of a minute is rounded to the next higher minute.

The distance of the flight route between the SP and RP is 14 kilometers average ground speed is 60 knots.

T =   14 x 60   ,
60 x 1.84
=   840   ,
110.4
= 7.6 minutes

Rounded up, the time is eight minutes.

Having determined the flight time, you can determine the liftoff time and the start point time.

 

LIFTOFF TIME, START POINT TIME

Liftoff time must be determined first in order to meet the LZ time. The total flight route time is determined by adding the time to fly from the SP to the RP to the LZ. In the preceding example, flight route time was determined to be eight minutes. The flight time from the RP to the LZ is two minutes. In this case, SP time would be H-10.

RP time = H-2 (2 minutes for RP to LZ).
SP time = H-10 (8 minutes flight route time plus 2 minutes from RP to LZ).

To determine the liftoff time, add the time between PZ and SP. Continuing the example, if the time between the PZ and SP is two minutes,

RP time = H-2.
SP time = H-10.
Liftoff time = H-12 (this includes 2 minutes from PZ to SP).

All times (liftoff, SP, and landing) are recorded in the proper columns of the air movement table.

Your air movement table needs to show the time required to load the aircraft.

 

LOADING TIME

Loading time is the time required before liftoff to load the aircraft. Time to load is normally dependent on prior training, equipment to be carried, and light conditions. Night operations require more loading time. Once loading time is determined, add it to the previously computed times.

If a unit requires four minutes to load to meet the liftoff time of H-12, it begins loading no later than H-16 minutes (loading time and liftoff time columns, air movement table).

Slingloading also requires additional time that must be calculated into the plan. The use of slingloads may also reduce the en route airspeed.

The aviation and ground elements each begin movement to the PZ to start loading at the prescribed time.

With the air movement time schedule completed for the initial elements, the air movement table is completed by building on the initial times.

If a second lift is planned, its loading time must be factored into the plan as well.

 

LOADING TIME, SECOND LIFT

The first lift is planned working back from H-hour. Planning for the second lift is forward from H-hour since the en route times are established. However, before annotating the air movement time for the second element, the time required for the aircraft to return from the LZ to the PZ (along the return route) is computed. This is done using the same method used to compute initial flight time.

For example, if it is two minutes flight time from the PZ to the SP, two minutes from RP to LZ and eight minutes en route, then once the aircraft have unloaded, it takes 12 minutes to return to the PZ (lift, serial, loads, and loading time columns, air movement table).

With this information, you can time out the second lift.

 

SECOND LIFT

If it takes four minutes to load the second lift, the liftoff time is recorded as H+16 minutes. Subsequently, if it takes two minutes to get from PZ to SP, SP time is H+18 minutes. If the flight requires 10 minutes to get from SP to RP, RP time is H+28 minutes. Once again, allow two minutes for transition from RP to LZ: the landing time for the second element on its LZ is H+30 minutes. Subsequent times are all computed in the same manner (landing time column, air movement table).

The air movement plan must take into consideration refueling and rearming the aircraft involved.

 

PLANNING FOR REFUELING

An accurate table must also contain the times involved in aircraft refueling.

Refueling is planned so that a flight completes refueling before the serial to be refueled last gets critically low on fuel. If only a portion of the flight can be refueled at the FARP, the first serial might have to refuel as much as an hour before it needs refueling. The other serials continue the lift operation until they are due to refuel. The plan should allow a smooth, continuous rotation of aircraft into and out of the FARP (see Figure 29).

FIGURE 29.  SEQUENCING SERIALS INTO THE FARP.

FIGURE 29. SEQUENCING SERIALS INTO THE FARP.

The number of aircraft that can refuel at one time is divided into the number of aircraft in the lift. The result is the number of separate trips to the FARP to refuel the entire lift one time.

The result is multiplied by the time required for the aircraft to refuel. The answer gives the total time required to refuel one time. For example, if four serials require 15 minutes each to refuel, it takes one hour to refuel the entire lift. (This time includes time for repositioning to the PZ.)

This figure is subtracted from the available flying time to determine at what point in the mission the refueling process must begin.

The physical planning for refueling begins when the aircraft arrive in the PZ for loading. Once the plans are developed, refueling becomes a part of the table.

 

Learning Event 4:
IDENTIFY THE CHARACTERISTICS AND PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS FOR A LOADING PLAN

Once you know which aircraft are going where at what time, you must plan to load the troops, equipment, and supplies on the proper aircraft. This is the loading plan.

 

GENERAL

The loading plan is based on the air movement plan. It ensures that troops, equipment, and supplies are loaded on the correct aircraft.

Unit integrity is maintained when aircraft loads are planned. However, assault forces and equipment may be cross-loaded so that command and control assets, all types of combat power, and a mix of weapons arrive at the LZ ready to fight.

Aircraft loads are also placed in priority to establish a bump plan. A bump plan ensures that essential troops and equipment are loaded ahead of less critical loads in case of aircraft breakdown or other problems.

Below brigade level, loading plans are established by SOPs. In any case, planning must cover the organization and operation of the PZ including load positions, day and night markings, and communications. The loading plan is most important when mixing internal and external loads and/or when mixing aircraft types (lift and medium helicopters).

Like everything else in an air assault operation plan, loading must be carefully coordinated.

 

COORDINATION WITH AIR MISSION CONTROL

Loading plans are carefully coordinated with the AMC or the aviation LO. Copies of the loading plan should be distributed to the aviation LO, command and control elements, AMC, and the PZ control officer.

For battalion or larger air assault operations, a written plan may be required to -

  • Control movement of troops, supplies, and equipment to and about the PZ.

  • Designate unit loading sites.

  • Control timing for arrival, loading, and departing of aircraft.

The requirement for detailed, written plans can be reduced by having adequate unit SOPs covering PZ operations and loading plans. Regardless of SOP adequacy, the loading phase should receive command attention to ensure that it goes smoothly. A well-planned and properly executed loading operation is imperative to mission success.

 

PICKUP ZONE SELECTION

Pickup zone identification is the first step in the loading plan development. Alternate PZs are identified at the same time as primary PZs. The goal of PZ identification is to locate suitable areas to accommodate the lift aircraft.

The specifications, such as degree of slope, wind speeds, and distance between aircraft, used in this lesson to identify and select PZs, LZs, and flight routes, are planning guides for the ground unit. They may be adjusted by the AMC based on his evaluation of his unit's level of training.

Extraction under pressure is also a function of successful PZ selection. Selected PZs must facilitate delivery of suppressive fires and continuous security of elements to be extracted and their helicopters.

Figures 30 and 31show the technical factors that must be considered in selecting PZs.

Once available PZs are identified, the AATFC and his S3 select and assign PZs to be used by each unit. Pickup zone criteria include-

FIGURE 30.  TECHNICAL FACTORS IN PZ AND LZ SELECTION.

FIGURE 30. TECHNICAL FACTORS IN PZ AND LZ SELECTION.

FIGURE 31.  TECHNICAL FACTORS IN PZ AND LZ SELECTION (CONTINUED).

FIGURE 31. TECHNICAL FACTORS IN PZ AND LZ SELECTION (CONTINUED).

Number. Multiple PZs avoid concentrating forces in one area.

Size. Each PZ should accommodate all supporting aircraft at once, if possible.

Proximity to troops. Where possible, the selected PZs should not require extensive ground movement (to the PZ) by troops.

Accessibility. PZs should be accessible to vehicles, to move support assets and infantry.

Vulnerability to attack. Selected PZs should be masked by terrain from enemy observation.

Preparation. It is better to select PZs that are usable as they are, or that require only limited clearing.

The PZs are under the control of a pickup zone control officer.

 

PICKUP ZONE CONTROL OFFICER

The PZCO organizes, controls, and coordinates operations in PZs selected by the AATFC. (The S4 selects and controls logistical PZs.)

 

The PZCO:

Forms a control group. To manage operations, the PZCO forms a control group to assist him. It may include air traffic control, subordinate units, and support personnel (manpower to clear the PZ; security). The PZCO selects a central location to position the group. The PZCO is designated by the AATFC, usually the S3 Air. For battalion air assault operations, each company commander appoints a PZCO who operates a company PZ for the battalion. The pickup zone control officer is a rifle platoon leader. Other members of the PZ control party include:

  • PZ control noncommissioned officer in charge. He is a platoon sergeant.

  • RATELO, with three radios. One radio monitors the combat aviation net for communication with the aircraft. The second radio is used for communication with the platoon subordinate units. The third radio operate in the company command net.

  • Chalk-linkup guides. There is one per chalk. Their primary duty is to assist in linkup and movement of chalks from the unit assembly area to the chalk assembly areas. For platoon-size air assault operations, these guides should come from the same chalk squad they are assigned to.

  • Lead aircraft signalman. He is responsible for visual landing guidance for the lead aircraft. This signalman could come from the chalk or squad loading on the lead aircraft.

  • Slingload teams. A team includes a signalman and hookup men (two soldiers).

Establishes communications. The PZCO should communicate on two primary radio frequencies: one to control movement and loading of units, and one to control aviation elements (combat aviation net). Alternate frequencies are provided as necessary. Radio listening silence during air movement will be maintained on the company and platoon radio nets unless directed otherwise.

When on board the aircraft, all leaders will communicate with the troops using predetermined arm-and-hand signals or stating the message or information on a piece of paper or event map. The aircraft crew communicates using the troop commander's handset.

The UH-60 also has a troop commander's antenna coax connection which is located in the aircraft. This enables the leader to hook up his PRC-77 radio to the FM antenna on the aircraft. This feature allows communication over the unit's command frequency. Radio communications on the LZ will be on the command frequency.

Plans and initiates fire support. He plans fires near PZs to provide all-round protection (from available support) without endangering arrival and departure of troops or aircraft.

Plans and initiates security. The PZCO ensures that adequate security is provided. Security protects the main body as it assembles, moves to the PZ, and is lifted out. Security elements should be provided by other forces if the PZ is within a friendly area. Security comes from AATF resources if it is to be extracted from the objective area.

Clears PZ of obstacles.

Marks the PZ.

 

PICKUP ZONE MARKING

The PZCO directs the marking of PZs. An effective method is to name the PZ by color and mark it accordingly (by that color) to direct where aircraft will land.

Red is never used to mark an aircraft landing position. It is used to mark landing obstacles such as trees or stumps in the landing area.

Regardless of the type of markers, the PZ is marked to indicate where aircraft are to land and coincides with the selected PZ aircraft formation.

An effective method is to have several individuals in each unit paint (and carry) an extra camouflage cover or a modified (cut to size) VS-17 panel. The colored covers, when displayed, indicate where the lead aircraft lands.

Once the PZs have been selected, getting the troops to them must be planned as well.

 

Organization of the Pickup Zone

The PZCO lays out the PZ as directed in the plan. If the plan calls for landing to the west in a staggered trail formation with the lead aircraft landing on a spot marked by a smoke grenade or panel markers, the PZ is laid out that way. Pathfinders should assist the PZCO when available (Figure 32).

FIGURE 32.  ORGANIZATION OF PICKUP ZONE.

FIGURE 32. ORGANIZATION OF PICKUP ZONE.

It is imperative that aviation elements arrive at the PZ in the formation directed in the plan, so that confusion is minimized during loading. The PZCO, or pathfinder element, assists in loading by ensuring aircraft and personnel are in the proper locations and formation at the correct time. If an aircraft (scheduled for the lift) is unable to complete its mission due to mechanical failure, the PZCO informs the unit commander, who implements the aircraft bump plan.

 

MOVEMENT TO PICKUP ZONE

Ground and aviation unit movement to the PZ is scheduled so that only the troops to load, and the helicopters to be loaded, arrive at the PZ at the same time. This prevents congestion, preserves security, and reduces vulnerability to enemy actions on the PZ. The troops to be loaded should arrive at their respective loading points prior to the aircraft landing. On the PZCO's signal, aircraft troop loads move by designated routes from their holding area(s) to their loading points on the PZ. If the primary PZ cannot be used, the PZCO advises the unit commander to move to the alternate PZ.

The PZCO contacts the aviation element if there is a PZ change. The AMC contacts PZ control if there has been a change in allowable cargo load, number of aircraft, or formation. During air movement to the PZ, enemy antiaircraft or other fire may be encountered. Air cavalry scout teams may be used to locate and suppress enemy positions prior to the arrival of the lift aircraft. Also, they may be employed on the flank and to the rear of lift aircraft.

The attack helicopter and/or air cavalry scout teams will not normally land on the PZ. When the lift helicopters are to be on the ground for extended periods, the attack helicopter, air cavalry teams may occupy holding areas nearby or return to rearm-refuel sites. The command-andcontrol helicopter is positioned where the command group can see and control critical events.

Strict radio discipline is maintained throughout the operation. Radio silence should not be broken unless absolutely necessary. Radio calls between aircraft are permitted only as a last resort when other signals are not appropriate. The helicopters should use terrain flying techniques en route to the PZ.

To coordinate the movement of units to the PZ, the PZCO -

  • Selects troop assembly areas, holding areas, and routes of movement. A holding area is located close to the PZ. It is used only when the assembly area is some distance away and does not allow timely movement to the PZ.

  • Determines movement of ground units to the PZ.

  • Specifies arrival time(s) and sees that movement of units remains on schedule.

Each unit commander notifies the PZ control party upon his unit's arrival in the holding area. Heavy loads and slingloads should not be programmed in the initial serials. Offloading heavy internal loads is time-consuming and slows troop buildup (Figure 33).

FIGURE 33.  MOVEMENT TO PICKUP ZONE.

FIGURE 33. MOVEMENT TO PICKUP ZONE.

Each load includes a designated aircraft troop commander responsible for briefing his troops and inspecting the load. He ensures that the load is organized and ready to be loaded as planned. The PZ control party briefing includes the loading points for primary and alternate PZs and the routes to those points. The aircraft troop commander briefs his personnel. As a minimum the briefing includes:

  • Loading procedures.

  • Bump plan (for individual and/or loads bumps).

  • Use of safety belts.

  • Preflight safety inspection of soldiers.

  • In-flight procedures.

  • Downed aircraft procedures.

  • Off-loading procedures.

  • Movement from the LZ.

To make sure each man and each major item of equipment gets where it needs to go, draw up an airloading table.

 

AIRLOADING TABLE

At company and lower levels, the airloading table assigns each man and major items of equipment or supplies to a specific aircraft (chalk).

The airloading table is an accountability tool, a loading manifest for each aircraft.

When time is limited, the table can be put on a sheet of paper from a squad leader's notebook. It should list soldiers (by name) and equipment to be loaded on each chalk. These lists are left with a specified representative in the area for consolidation or exchange between aircraft troop commanders (senior person in each aircraft load). This procedure ensures that if an aircraft is lost, a list of personnel and equipment on board is available.

Load planning is, to use a phrase, a way to keep it all together.

 

LOAD PLANNING

During preparations of the loading tables, unit leaders at all levels attempt to maintain the following:

 

Tactical Integrity of Units

When planning loads for air assault operations, fire teams and squads are loaded intact on the same aircraft, and platoons in the same serial. This ensures integrity as a fighting unit upon landing. The commander's goal is to load his unit so that unit integrity is maintained at every level.

 

Self-Sufficiency of Loads

Each unit load should be functional by itself whenever possible.

  • Every towed item is accompanied by its prime mover.

  • Crews are loaded with their vehicle or weapon.

  • Component parts accompany the major items of equipment.

  • Ammunition is carried with the weapon.

  • Sufficient personnel are on board to unload cargo carried.

  • If possible, communicate between chalks without using the aircraft radios.

 

Tactical Cross-Loading

Loads should be planned so that all leaders, or all crew-served weapons, are not loaded on the same aircraft. Thus, if an aircraft is lost, the mission is not seriously hampered. For example, loading the platoon leader, platoon sergeant, and all the squad leaders on the same helicopter, or loading more than one machine gun team on the same aircraft, are violations of cross-loading principles.

Another consideration is to determine whether internal or external loading is the best delivery method for equipment and supplies. Helicopters loaded internally can fly faster and are more maneuverable. Externally loaded helicopters fly slower and are less maneuverable; however, they can be loaded and unloaded more rapidly than internally loaded helicopters. The method used depends largely on availability of sling and rigging equipment. Supplies loaded externally, although loaded rapidly, can present problems if the supplies are destined for more than one location or unit.

You must assign priorities to men and equipment. The highest priority gets where it needs to go first. All others arrive as soon as possible if they cannot arrive together. The tool that determines which men and materiel are the most important is the aircraft bump plan.

 

AIRCRAFT BUMP PLAN

Each aircraft load has a bump sequence designated on its air loading table. Bump priority ensures that the most essential personnel and equipment arrive at the objective area first. It specifies personnel and equipment that may be bumped and delivered later.

If all personnel within the load cannot be lifted, individuals must know who is to offload and in what sequence. This ensures that key personnel are not bumped arbitrarily. Also, bump sequence is designated for aircraft within each serial or flight. This sequence is listed on the air movement table.

This also ensures that key aircraft loads are not left in the PZ. When an aircraft within a serial or flight cannot lift off, and key personnel are on board, they offload and reboard another aircraft that has priority.

If the operation is large enough, an aircraft bump-andstraggler system may be needed.

 

AIRCRAFT BUMP-AND-STRAGGLER CONTROL

A PZ bump-and-straggler collection point is specified by company or larger units. Personnel not moved as planned report to this location, are accounted for, regrouped, and rescheduled by the PZCO for later delivery to appropriate LZs.

There are three "units of measure" for air movement: the lift, the serial, and the load.

 

LIFTS, SERIALS, AND LOADS

To maximize operational control, aviation assets are designed into lifts, serials, and loads (Figure 34).

FIGURE 34.  LIFTS, SERIALS, AND LOADS.

FIGURE 34. LIFTS, SERIALS, AND LOADS.

 

Lifts

A lift is one sortie of all utility and cargo aircraft assigned to a mission. That is, each time all assigned aircraft pick up troops and/or equipment and set them down on the LZ, one lift is completed. The second lift is completed when all aircraft place their second load on the LZ.

 

Serials

There may be times when a lift is too large to fly in one formation. In such cases, the lift is organized into a number of serials. A serial is a tactical grouping of two or more aircraft under the control of a serial commander (an aviator), separated from other tactical groupings within the lift by time or space.

Serials may be necessary to maintain effective control of aviation assets. For example, if NOE flight is used, it would be difficult to control 16 aircraft as a single increment. However, a 16-aircraft lift with four serials of four aircraft each could be controlled more easily.

Serials may also be used when the capacity of available PZs or LZs is limited. If there is a lift of 16 aircraft and available PZs and/or LZs will accommodate only four aircraft, it is best to organize into four serials of four aircraft each.

Serials are used to take advantage of available flight routes. If there are several acceptable flight routes, the AATFC may choose to use serials to avoid concentrating his forces along one route. If the commander wants all his forces to land simultaneously in a single LZ, he has the serials converge at a common RP before landing.

With a lift of 16 aircraft and four available flight routes, the AATFC could use four serials of four aircraft each. Each serial would use a different flight route. Each time there is a new lift, a new serial begins. For example, in lift one there are serials one through four; in lift two, serials again start with one.

 

Loads

Within each lift there is also a specific number of loads. A load is personnel and/or equipment designated to be moved by a specific aircraft. When planning the air movement, each aircraft within the lift is termed a load. For example, within a lift of 10, there are aircraft loads 1 through 10. For each lift thereafter, there will also be loads 1 through 10. Each aircraft is accounted for within each lift.

An aircraft load may also be referred to as a "chalk load," "chalk number," or "chalk." Loads must also be designated within serials just as they are within lifts. Counting within the serials is continuous up to the total number of aircraft in the lift.

For example, in a lift of 16 aircraft, in lift one, serial one, there may be loads one through four. In lift one, serial two, there may be loads five through eight. In lift one, serial three, there may be loads 9 through 12. Finally, in lift one, serial four, there may be loads 13 through 16.

Having determined who and what is on each aircraft, you can then determine a sequence of departure.

 

SEQUENCE OF DEPARTURE

The sequence of departure from PZs is based on the mission to be accomplished by each subordinate unit upon landing. Unit priorities are based on the sequence of arrival at their LZs. Units are scheduled to depart (in order) based on en route time to the LZ. For example, if Company A is to land first (at H-hour) and Company B second (at H+5), and Company B is 15 minutes farther (in flight time) from the LZ, it may depart the PZ before Company A.

 

Lift-Off from the Pickup Zone

When the aircraft are loaded and ready for lift-off, the PZCO signals the flight leader using arm-and-hand or light signals. The flight leader may signal other aircraft by turning on (or off) his navigation lights. Upon landing, the lights are turned on. When they are turned off, the flight lifts off. Members of the PZ control party may also relay the alert to lift off to aircraft in the rear of the formation, or the flight leader simply lifts off and others follow (Figure 35).

FIGURE 35.  MOVEMENT FROM PZ TO RP.

FIGURE 35. MOVEMENT FROM PZ TO RP.

Lift-off should be at the time prescribed in the air movement table. The aircraft will not loiter in the PZ. If they are early, they lift off and alter speed to cross the SP or first ACP on time. This should place the first aircraft of the first lift in the LZ at H-hour.

Lift-off may be by single aircraft or by serial. Under some conditions (dusty PZ, restricted PZ, or high density altitude and no wind), it is best to break serials into smaller increments. When possible, simultaneous lift-off is best for the following reasons:

  • It is easier for the attack helicopter unit commander to plan his scheme of maneuver and provide security en route for aircraft.

  • AATF control is more positive.

  • It reduces the enemy's time to fire at the aircraft.

The flight's speed and rate of climb is adjusted by the flight leader so that all elements form into the en route flight formation at the required altitude.

 

En Route to the Landing Zone

The AMC predetermines the en route flight speed and the flight leader paces the flight to ensure the flight crosses the SP on time. Radio silence is paramount; however, if directed in the order, serial leaders report to the AMC on passing each communication checkpoint. En route radio calls are made only if the flight is late or if it is required to deviate from the plan.

Troop unit commanders, leaders, and aircraft troop commanders must remain oriented throughout the flight. This is done by following and verifying the flight route using terrain observation, maps, aircraft compass, and aircraft speed.

When a threat is encountered along the flight route, the AATFC gives the order for the AMC to modify or switch to an alternate flight route. The AMC's radio message is brief when shifting aircraft flight route. If the LZ is to be changed, the AATF commander makes the decision and informs the AMC. If the AATFC cannot be contacted, the senior ground commander in the flight will make the decision. It is recommended that the AATFC or an S3 representative fly with the AMC to facilitate command and control.

 

Security

Air cavalry and attack helicopter units provide security for downed aircraft, route reconnaissance, and other assistance en route (as desired by the AMC). When United States Air Force aircraft are assigned security roles, they may work with attack helicopter units. Security is provided to the flank, front, and rear of the helicopter formation(s).

When performing this role in a medium-to-high threat environment, specially equipped aircraft suppress or destroy surface-to-air missile sites and radar-directed guns. Other USAF aircraft may be used to selectively jam enemy radar and communications signals using jamming transmitters or other methods such as "chaff" (dropping shredded aluminum foil strips to spoil radar).

Ground attack aircraft (A-10, A-7, A-37, or AC-130) may be with, or in advance of, the flight formation, or may be on alert nearby or in planned orbits and support patterns to respond rapidly. Indirect fire weapons provide suppressive fires along the flight routes as planned or as necessary.

If a lift aircraft emergency occurs (forced landing in an unsecure area), the aircraft commander (if time permits) switches his radio to the "guard channel" and transmits a "mayday" in the clear.

The aircraft commander announces his identification, heading, position, nature of emergency, and intentions. The aircraft crew alerts passengers of the emergency and secures loose equipment. The SOP for downed aircraft is then put into effect. The AATFC makes the decision on whether the ground element aboard the aircraft moves to a linkup point and continues the mission or remains with the aircraft.

 

Landing Operations

When the release point is passed, the serials proceed to the assigned LZ(s). The RP crossing is used to time the lifting and shifting of artillery and close air support strikes, if preparatory fires are used. The RP is also the point at which the aircraft shift to LZ formation, if required (Figure 36).

FIGURE 36.  MOVEMENT FROM RELEASE POINT TO LANDING ZONE.

FIGURE 36. MOVEMENT FROM RELEASE POINT TO LANDING ZONE.

Napalm and other incendiary ordnance are not normally used on the LZ and its immediate vicinity just prior to landing, because foliage fire and smoke could endanger aircraft or hamper the mission. Helicopters equipped with smoke generators can be utilized to provide a smoke screen. You must consider wind direction, speed, and enemy air defense along with friendly indirect fire support.

Attack helicopter units and/or teams may be employed in various roles during an LZ operation. They may -

  • Precede the lift element into the LZ (by a few minutes) for reconnaissance and/or to provide suppressive fires to prevent a time gap in LZ fires (provided by other support elements).

  • Recommend last-minute changes regarding aircraft landing instructions.

  • Provide area cover and neutralize known enemy positions, or provide security for lift aircraft while in the LZ area.

  • Observe ground approaches to the LZ for possible enemy attacks.

NOTE: After the initial pass, attack helicopters may enter an overwatch flight pattern around the LZ.

 

Landing Techniques

The AATF lands as planned unless last-minute changes in the tactical situation force the commander to abort or alter the landing. The aviation crew must make every effort to keep the troops in their aircraft informed of the situation, especially of any changes to the original plan. A simultaneous landing is desired so as to place the maximum number of troops on the ground, in a given area, in the shortest possible time. The individual aircraft touchdown points are planned to disembark troops as close as possible to their initial positions.

The operation is accomplished with a minimum number of lifts, each with the maximum number of aircraft the LZ will accommodate. This reduces the exposure time of the aircraft, maintains unit integrity, provides maximum combat power, and gives the enemy less time to react. When separate element landings are dictated because of LZ size, time intervals between elements are kept as short as possible. Ideal timing has an aircraft element landing immediately after the preceding element lifts off.

During landing, troops are most vulnerable. They should disembark rapidly and deploy to carry out assigned missions. When an air evacuation location is designated, it is normally at the approach end of the LZ. This permits continuation of the lift and prompt evacuation of the wounded.

The leaders at each command level account for all personnel and equipment at the LZ and submit appropriate reports to higher headquarters. Key personnel killed, wounded, or missing, are replaced according to unit SOP. Key weapons missing or out of action may require the force to reorganize. After the unit completes its consolidation of the LZ, it is reorganized as necessary.

 

Safety Measures

All leaders will enforce strict safety measures when working with helicopters. The safety briefing checklist includes, as a minimum:

  • Identification tags and earplugs will be worn at all times when near or in an aircraft.

  • Helmets with chin straps will be fastened at all times.

  • Helicopter safety measures:

  • - UH-1Hs and UH-60s are approached from the front, forward of the rear cargo doors. Do not go near the tail of the aircraft.

    - Approach and depart helicopter in the crouched position for extra clearance below the main rotor blade.

    - Move to or from helicopters on sloping ground on the down slope side to avoid the main rotor.

  • Shirt sleeves will be rolled down whenever working with aircraft.

  • M16 rifles will be carried with the muzzle pointed downward, pistol grip forward, bolt closed, magazine in weapon, and weapon on safe. Rounds will not be chambered, bayonets will not be fixed.

  • Hand grenades will be secured.

  • Short antennas will be bent completely down and long antennas will be tied down when using radios in the proximity of helicopters.

  • Seatbelts are fastened upon entering the helicopter and left buckled until the crew chief signals to exit the aircraft.

  • In the event of a forced landing, all personnel will lean forward with their heads down until the aircraft comes to rest. No one will exit the aircraft until the main rotor has stopped.

 

Command and Control Helicopter

At the RP, the command and control helicopter moves into position (employing terrain flying) to observe and communicate with assault elements. In avoiding enemy weapons, the pilot uses popup techniques to observe the activities. The AATFC will determine where he can best influence the action, by remaining on the aircraft or joining the ground forces.

 

Moving Vehicle-Mounted TOW by Helicopter

Transporting the TOW and its carrier around the battlefield by helicopter provides the commander with the means to rapidly emplace or shift antiarmor assets. For those units that are equipped with the M151, or M966 high-mobility, multi-purpose, wheeled vehicle (HMMWV), two UH-60 helicopters are required to transport the system.

In units equipped with M151 vehicles, one helicopter carries the squad, and the weapon system, and slingloads one M151, while the other helicopter slingloads the M151 and trailer. In units equipped with the M966, one helicopter carries the weapon system, squad, and ammunition, while the other helicopter carries the M966 by slingload.

NOTE: Limitations imposed by conditions of density altitude may preclude the UH-60 being able to lift the M966. In this case, the squad and weapon system would be transported by the helicopter while the M966 is moved over land by the driver to link up with the rest of the squad.

In units equipped with the M901 or M113, the TOW system must be removed from the vehicle. The dismounted system, squad leader, gunner, and assistant gunner can be moved by the UH-60. The driver of the M901 or M113 then moves the vehicle over land to link up with the rest of the squad. When transporting by CH-47 helicopter, the helicopter can lift either the squad's two M151s or one M966 and carry the squad as well. If the unit is equipped with the M901 or M113, movement is the same as when using the UH-60.

 

Loading and Transporting the TOW System in the UH-60

The squad leader sits where he can see the LZ during approach and remains terrain-oriented. The assistant gunner sits on the same side next to the squad leader. This speeds up weapon emplacement since the squad leader carries the tripod and sight, and the assistant gunner carries the traversing unit. The TOW components and missiles are placed in the aircraft to be readily available to the soldier responsible for carrying them (Figure 37).

FIGURE 37.  TOW SQUAD LOADED IN UH-60.

FIGURE 37. TOW SQUAD LOADED IN UH-60.

The additional missiles are carried in the aircraft. They are stockpiled on the landing site for the squad to retrieve. When firing positions are selected, the missiles are collected and moved to those positions. The squad can move the TOW system short distances, when dismounted. The TOW system is landed and picked up as close to its firing position as possible because of the difficulty of manually transporting the TOW and missiles over an extended distance.

 

Learning Event 5:
IDENTIFY THE CHARACTERISTICS AND PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS FOR A STAGING PLAN

The staging plan is the last of the five plans, and follows from the loading plan.

 

GENERAL

The staging plan is based on the loading plan. It prescribes the arrival time of ground units (troops, equipment, and supplies) at the PZ in the proper order for movement. Prior to arrival of the aircraft, the PZ must be secured, PZ control party positioned, and the troops and equipment positioned in a unit assembly area.

 

PROCEDURES

Loads must be ready before aircraft arrive at the PZ. Usually, ground units are expected to be in position in the PZ 15 minutes before aircraft arrive. The staging plan also restates the PZ organization, defines flight routes to the PZ, and provides instructions for linkup of all aviation elements. Air-to-air linkup of aviation units should be avoided, especially at night when night vision goggles are being used.

 

Occupation of Unit Assembly Area

The unit leaders should accomplish the following actions upon the occupation of a unit assembly area:

  • Maintain all-round security of the assembly area.

  • Maintain communications.

  • Organize troops and equipment into chalks and loads in accordance with the unit air movement plan.

  • Conduct safety briefings and equipment check of troops.

  • Establish priority of loading for each man and identify bump personnel.

  • Brief on the location of the straggler control points.

 

Movement to and Occupation of Chalk Assembly Area

Linkup guides from the PZ control party will meet with designated units at assembly area and coordinate movement chalks to a release point. As the chalks arrive at the release point, chalk guides will move each chalk to its assigned chalk assembly area. The same guide may be used to move the unit from the unit assembly area to the chalk assembly area, if reduced personnel are required. No more than three chalks should be located in the chalk assembly area at one time if they are part of a larger force.

In order to maintain security at the PZ, noise and light discipline will be maintained throughout the entire movement. No personnel should be allowed on the PZ unless loading aircraft, rigging vehicles for slingload, or directed by PZ control. While remaining in the assigned chalk order, each soldier is assigned a security (firing) position by the chalk leader and emplaced in the prone position, weapon at ready, and facing away from PZ to provide immediate close-in security. See Figure 38, for an example of a large, one-sided PZ. Figure 39, is an example of a small, two-sided PZ with unit and chalk assembly areas.

FIGURE 38.  LARGE, ONE-SIDED PZ.

FIGURE 38. LARGE, ONE-SIDED PZ.

FIGURE 39.  SMALL, TWO-SIDED PZ.

FIGURE 39. SMALL, TWO-SIDED PZ.

While in the chalk assembly area, units should adhere to the following principles for loading the aircraft:

  • Maintain tactical integrity by keeping fire teams and squads intact.

  • Maintain self-sufficiency by loading a weapon and its ammunition on the same aircraft (Dragon).

  • Ensure key men, weapons, and equipment are cross-loaded among aircraft to prevent the loss of control, or all of a particular asset, if an aircraft is lost.

  • Prior to loading, ensure all troop gear is tied down and checked; short antennas are placed in radios, folded down, and secured.

  • Squad and team leaders check the equipment of their men to ensure it is complete and operational.

  • Radios are turned on and communications check performed (unless directed otherwise).

  • A specific aircraft seat is assigned to each man.

 

PZ Closure

During platoon air assault operations the platoon sergeant is responsible for ensuring all personnel and equipment are loaded (clear the PZ) and security is maintained.

Single lift. If required, the platoon sergeant positions himself at the last aircraft and collects "bumped" personnel. He will be the last man to load the aircraft. Once aboard the aircraft, the platoon sergeant (PSG) will notify the crew chief and/or the AMC that all personnel and equipment are loaded. The aircraft door gunners will provide close-in security.

Multiple lift. The duties of the PSG are the same as for a single lift. During multiple lifts, the security teams will maintain security of the PZ and the last element to depart with the PSG. Depending on the initial location(s) of the security teams, repositioning closer to the PZ may be necessary. To enhance security and minimize the movement required by the teams, the aircraft will land as close to the security team positions as possible.

 

UH-60 Loading Sequence, Split Chalk

The chalk leader (squad leader) initiates movement once the aircraft has landed. The farside and nearside groups move to the aircraft in file with the chalk leader (CL) always leading (Figure 40). The chalk leader should:

  • Ensure all personnel know which aircraft and which position to load.

  • Ensure all personnel wear or carry rucksacks on the aircraft.

  • Notify the crew chief when all chalk members are on board and ready for lift-off.

FIGURE 40. UH-60 LOADING SEQUENCE, SPLIT CHALK.

All personnel will buckle up as soon as they are seated in their assigned seats. The chalk leader will always sit in the left front seat unless a platoon leader or company commander is on the same aircraft. The chalk leader will hand the chalk card to the pilot and answer any questions the pilot may have, utilizing the aircraft intercommunication (troop commander's) handset.

 

UH-60 Loading Sequence, Whole Chalk

The chalk leader (squad leader) initiates movement once the aircraft has landed. The farside and nearside groups move to the aircraft in file with the number 1 man leading the load to the appropriate side (Figure 41).

FIGURE 41.  UH-60 LOADING SEQUENCE, WHOLE CHALK.

FIGURE 41. UH-60 LOADING SEQUENCE, WHOLE CHALK.

NOTE: The farside group will always move around to the front of the aircraft.

The chalk leader will stop at the nearside of the aircraft to ensure the nearside group loads properly; then he moves around the front of the aircraft to the far side and checks the other half of the chalk. All personnel will buckle up as soon as they are seated in the correct seat. The chalk leader will hand the chalk card to the pilot and answer any questions the pilot may have, utilizing the aircraft's intercommunication (troop commander's) handset.

 

LANDING ZONE OPERATION

There are priority of actions upon a landing zone. The PSG must ensure that the operation goes according to plan. The priority of actions are listed as follows:

 

Unloading

Unloading of the aircraft does not begin until directed by the crew chief or pilot (Figure 42). Once the aircraft has landed, personnel will unbuckle seatbelts and exit aircraft as fast as possible with all equipment.

  • Before leaving the aircraft, the chalk leader will obtain the landing direction from the pilot if not determined during the approach into the LZ. This will aid in orientation to the LZ, particularly at night.

  • Individuals will move 15 to 20 meters out from the side of the aircraft and assume the prone position facing away from the aircraft, weapons at the ready, until the aircraft has departed the LZ.

FIGURE 42.  UH-60 UNLOADING PROCEDURES.

FIGURE 42. UH-60 UNLOADING PROCEDURES.

 

Immediate Action on Hot LZ

If the decision is made to use a hot LZ, or contact is made upon landing, have the troops dismount quickly and move 15 to 20 meters away from the aircraft. The troops should immediately return the enemy fire. This allows the aircraft to depart quickly.

  • If the contact is similar to a far ambush, troops will fire and maneuver off the LZ to the closest side offering cover and concealment. If troops are engaged from nearby enemy positions, they treat it as a near ambush by immediately returning fire. Soldiers who consider themselves in the kill zone may assault the enemy position(s) or attempt to get out of the kill zone. Soldiers not in the kill zone will provide supporting fire to support the movement of troops in the kill zone.

  • The squad or platoon leader will call for fire support if it is available. Once disengaged from the enemy force, the squad or platoon leader will move the unit to a covered and concealed position. They account for personnel and equipment, and assess the situation as to whether or not the unit can continue the mission.

 

Chalk Assembly on Cold LZ

Upon unloading from the aircraft, the chalk leader (squad leader) will move the chalk to its predetermined locations using traveling overwatch movement techniques. The troops will move at a fast pace to the nearest concealed position. When the concealed assembly point is reached, the chalk leader makes a quick count of personnel and equipment, and then proceeds with the mission.

 

CONCLUSION

This lesson has presented the basics of the ground tactical plan, the landing plan, the air movement plan, the loading plan, and the staging plan, the reverse-planning process which creates an air assault operations plan.

 

GO TO:

Lesson 2 Practical Exercise 2

 

 

 
Page last modified: 27-04-2005 07:32:45 Zulu