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Army special operations aviation units must be prepared to support special operations across the operational continuum. These SO may be in support of US military, a host nation, other foreign nations, and/or other agencies and special activities. This chapter discusses the nature of ARSOA units and their capabilities and limitations. It also discusses ARSOA missions in support of SO and reviews the ARSOA mission planning process and considerations.


a. Special operations are inherently joint operations. ARSOA forces are commanded and tasked to conduct joint operations and are organized and trained to operate extensively in this arena. Extensive joint exercises and participation in the joint planning and execution system make ARSOA very familiar with the needs and capabilities of joint operations.

b. ARSOA units have capabilities that allow them to operate effectively throughout the operational continuum. These capabilities must be understood to properly plan and execute SO missions that involve ARSOA.

(1) Special operations can be conducted during the day or at night. ARSOA units prefer to fly at night, during periods of low ambient light, and at low-level and terrain flight altitudes to conduct or support their clandestine or deep operations. These methods permit SOF to remain in enemy territory for long periods. Day operations increase the risk to the SO mission, aircraft, and crews. Therefore, they are performed only after the factors of METT-T are thoroughly evaluated and a risk assessment is completed.

(2) The equipment that the ARSOA unit uses is usually procured, designed, or modified by the unit SIMO. This equipment allows the unit to conduct clandestine penetration missions safely and efficiently. ARSOA aircraft have navigation systems and sensors that permit and aid in terrain-masking flight at night and during adverse weather. Communications suites permit secure and rapid command and control over great distances with the mission aircraft and the supported and supporting agencies.

All aircraft have internal auxiliary fuel tanks, and many of them can be refueled in the air. This capability allows the ARSOA unit to penetrate hostile areas from long distances in support of SOF missions.

(3) The skills necessary to design, modify, maintain, and operate this equipment are not learned quickly or easily. A significant loss is not easily replaced. In addition, training a fully mission-qualified crew member can take more than 12 months, depending on the individual's experience.

(4) Discovery of an operation could result in failure. Therefore, flight profiles are selected primarily to avoid detection. Selection of routes, times, and equipment to permit undetected infiltration and exfiltration requires time and practice. ARSOA flying operations demand expert terrain flying techniques. Terrain flying frequently takes place at night or during reduced visibility. An ARSOA mission may require flight when most other aircraft would be operationally limited or restricted because of weather or terrain considerations.

(5) Operational security is crucial. The element of surprise is one of the SOF's major tactical advantages. The use of highly trained personnel in task-oriented teams allows for isolated planning and execution without significant direct support. Loss of OPSEC can cause cancellation of the mission.

c. ARSOA can self-deploy some aircraft, or it may use the US Transportation Command airlift and sealift systems. In a rapid buildup of forces for a major conflict, movement of troops, weapons, supplies, and oversized and overweight cargo will overload the ALOC and the SLOC. Some ARSOA helicopters can be rapidly configured to self-deploy to arrive in theater at the same time as the support SOF units. Mission benefits must be weighed against the risks and cost of the self-deployment flight.

(1) Self-deployment. In terms of operational airframe availability, MH-47 self-deployment is usually quicker if the distance is less than 2,000 miles. MH-60 and AH/MH-6 aircraft should not be self-deployed if strategic and tactical aircraft are available. Shipment by C5 allows for quick reassembly of smaller SOF aircraft. In addition, operational airframes will be available to the ground commander shortly after they arrive. Some ARSOA assets can deploy to central Germany in three to four days. They can also deploy to the western coast of Africa in three to four days, to Central America in one day, and to Brazil in three to four days. Once deployed OCONUS, ARSOA assets can use their self-deployment capability to position from one flank of a theater to another or to deploy to still another theater.

To self-deploy, ARSOA units will use the planning guidance contained in FM 1-109. The extensive cost of self-deployment in resources must be considered before this method of moving ARSOA into a theater is used. Planners must consider--

  • The condition of the aircrew after selfdeployment.

  • The condition of the aircraft and equipment and the inspections required because of the extended flight.

  • The probability of self-deployment success.

  • The planning time lost because aircrews deployed the aircraft.

  • The reduced aircrew and aircraft availability when additional crew members are used to selfdeploy aircraft.

(2) Airlift. Airlift is the preferred method of deploying ARSOA assets. ARSOA units can rapidly configure all assigned aircraft for movement on USAF strategic aircraft. When they arrive, the aircraft can be quickly rebuilt and ready to operate.

(3) Sealift. Sealift is the slowest of all deployment methods. It requires extensive planning at both the departure and the arrival ports. During a sealift, ARSOA units require the support of depot maintenance organizations to help them prepare the aircraft for shipment.

(4) Tactical sealift. Deployment using this method provides ARSOA units with a responsive deployment capability that requires minimal aircraft preparation. Aircraft can be stored and maintained below deck, and crews can conduct detailed mission planning while en route to the area of operations. Depending on the scenario, tactical sealift facilities can serve as an intermediate staging base or a forward staging base for short periods.

d. For missions of short duration, ARSOA units deploy with the capability to perform their own AVUM and AVIM support in the field. Therefore, they require very little AVIM or AVUM support. Task forces normally deploy with enough supplies to operate independently for at least 15 days. Consumables, such as ammunition and fuel, are the most significant resupply needs. ARSOA units deployed for sustained operations normally require support from theater assets. They will use contract logistics support and other direct support for depot-level maintenance.


a. Special operations forces conduct operations according to the fundamentals of AirLand Operations, the Army's capstone warfighting doctrine. SOF provide commanders with utility and flexibility, including direct-action, special reconnaissance, joint and/or combined liaison, unconventional warfare, and unilateral operations. However, special operations frequently take place in situations short of war. In these situations, the SOF's ability to influence rather than dominate the operational environment is more important. This indirect application of military power requires that the fundamentals of AirLand Operations be adapted to the situation and the mission.

b. In many ways, ARSOA exemplifies the AirLand Operations tenets of agility, initiative, depth, and synchronization.

(1) Agility is the ability to act faster than the enemy and is a prerequisite for initiative. It is a physical and a mental quality. ARSOA enhances the physical ability of the SOF to choose where and when to conduct operations. The ARSOA unit's ability to rapidly enter and exit an area from a great distance keeps the enemy off balance and amplifies the impact of a small force.

(2) Initiative is setting or changing the terms of battle by actions. This requires the force to act, which compels the enemy to react. The ARSOA's ability to extend the range of the SOF to conduct SO missions gives the operational-level commander greater flexibility in setting the terms of battle. It provides the speed and flexibility to redirect actions and maintain the initiative. Properly used, aviation assets allow the conduct of misdirections, deceptions, and feints to which the enemy must respond and thus lose the initiative.

(3) Depth is the extension of operations in space, time, and resources. ARSOA provides SOF the ability to reach the depths of the theater. Depth expands the friendly commander's time available by reducing transport and deployment time and planning time. It also reduces training time and the resources necessary to move SOF from one location to another. Depth ensures that SOF elements will be positioned where and when they will be most effective. If the enemy perceives that its entire theater is vulnerable to SOF actions at any time, it may commit its forces and support to an extensive rear area security operation.

(4) Synchronization is the arrangement of battlefield activities in time, space, and purpose in a way that produces the most relative combat power at the desired point. ARSOA provides

SOF with the ability to move quickly to where their actions may enhance the effects of other forces. Additionally, it provides intelligence that clarifies the picture for the commander and creates conditions within the enemy's area of operations that allows a decisive event to occur.

(5) Versatility is the unit's ability to meet diverse challenges, shift focus, tailor forces, and move from one role or mission to another rapidly and efficiently.


The capabilities of ARSOA are based upon a combination of skills and equipment. Its limitations revolve around the need for theater support for all classes of supply during extended operations.

a. Capabilities.

(1) ARSOA units can perform sustained operations using 50 percent of its deployed aircraft. Within the parameters of the factors of METT-T, they can also surge to 75 to 80 percent of their deployed aircraft for limited periods. This provides for aircraft maintenance and aircrew planning time.

(2) ARSOA medium lift and assault helicopters (MH-47Es and MH-60Ks) can strategically self-deploy within planning guidelines. Like all others, they can quickly and easily be configured for air transport.

(3) ARSOA units provide a unique, quick-strike capability using assault and attack aircraft which are rapidly deployed via USAF transport.

(4) ARSOA units train and qualify for NVG, overwater, and maritime operations.

(5) ARSOA units have an organic, centralized AVUM and AVIM capability for all of their assigned aircraft, armament, and avionics.

(6) ARSOA units can perform unit maintenance on all organic equipment.

b. Limitations.

(1) ARSOA depends on the theater for the manpower; special tools; and test, measurement, and diagnostic equipment to perform decentralized maintenance support during wartime and contingency operations.

(2) During sustained operations, ARSOA units will use large quantities of POL and ammunition. They will depend upon the theater to deliver, store, distribute, and protect these items. ARSOA requires theater aircraft Class IX support for those items that are aircraft-common. ARSOA-peculiar parts resupply is sustained using prepackaged contingency stocks and theater throughput items. ARSOA uses contingency stocks in the form of deployment support kits and "war" packages for both standard and nonstandard equipment.

(3) ARSOA units are not structured for nor can they conduct interior guard or perimeter surveillance during combat operations. Therefore, they should be based in a secure location for OPSEC and physical security.

(4) ARSOA units have no medical-holding capabilities.

(5) ARSOA units have limited organic CS and CSS capabilities, particularly in areas of billeting and messing. ARSOA TFs will require additional support from other units.

(6) ARSOA units require support from a higher level (normally from the JSOACC) for airspace deconfliction, tactical air support, all-source intelligence, and aviation weather data.

(7) ARSOA forces depend on theater ground and air transportation assets to move aviation maintenance and personnel assets within the theater.

(8) ARSOA forces are not easily regenerated.

(9) Although aerial refueling increases the range of the ARSOA mission, this capability is totally dependent on US or allied tanker support.


a. Unconventional Warfare. During UW, ARSOA supports the SOF commander by conducting air movement of supported SOF teams, host-nation personnel, and supplies. These air movements require the ARSOA to conduct clandestine penetration, precision navigation, and long-range infiltration and exfiltration. During UW, ARSOA should not be used for routine administrative and logistical air movements. They can, however, extract US and allied personnel recovered by the UW escape and evasion network and provide limited aerial attacks into denied territory.

b. Foreign Internal Defense. FID operations develop political, economic, psychological, and military infrastructures of friendly governments to prevent or defeat an insurgency. ARSOA

assists by providing aviation assets to host-nation SOF who require their skills and equipment. This assistance is normally limited to movement of host-nation SOF to conduct surgical operations such as precision application of fire with no collateral damage. In an FID environment, general aviation operations are not appropriate ARSOA missions.

c. Special Reconnaissance. Normal ARSOA support for SR operations is through infiltration, resupply, or exfiltration of SOF teams that perform these missions. ARSOA can also perform some SR missions independently and report strategic intelligence on enemy locations, intentions, and actions.

d. Direct Action. In this role, ARSOA's primary contribution is to infiltrate DA special operations teams directly onto the objective or into a secure landing zone from where they can move to their target. With organic armed helicopters, ARSOA units can also conduct deep, unilateral DA SO missions independently. They can support DA SO units as small as three- to fiveman teams and as large as a ranger battalion. ARSOA air assault operations support DA missions that include raids, ambushes, and seizure of key facilities. They also support interdiction of major lines of communications, deception schemes, and shows-of-force.

e. Counterterrorism. Counterterrorism involves offensive measures that civilian and military agencies of a government take to prevent, deter, and respond to terrorism. In this interagency activity, SOF apply specialized capabilities to preclude, preempt, and resolve terrorist incidents abroad. The US Department of Justice and the Department of State are the lead agency authorities. However, host-nation responsibilities limit ARSOA's involvement in counterterrorism. When directed by the NCA, ARSOA supports CT missions. These missions may include a hostage rescue, the recovery of sensitive material from terrorist organizations, and an attack on the terrorist infrastructure. ARSOA can insert or extract supported SOF into and from CT targets. Or, they can support the seizure of key facilities during other CT operations.

f. Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs. ARSOA can support clandestine PSYOP and CA missions. ARSOA is best used when the target country or audience is landlocked by hostile nations and penetration of nonpermissive airspace is required. Overt PSYOP and CA should be supported by general aviation assets.

g. Special Activities. ARSOA can also conduct other special activities directed by the NCA.


a. Skills and Systems. ARSOA units use specially modified aircraft to perform their clandestine penetration and attack missions. ARSOA aviators receive extensive training on the specialized technical capabilities of their aircraft and in SO-peculiar operations. This training enables ARSOA aviators to defeat, deceive, or disrupt hostile acquisition and air defense weapon systems.

b. Flight Profiles. Clandestine penetration requires that ARSOA aircrews do more than evade hostile air defense and avoid air interception aircraft once they are detected. They must avoid detection to preserve the overall security of the SOF mission. ARSOA aircraft will depart a forward location using precision navigation techniques, terrain masking, and terrain following and avoidance equipment on the MH-60K and MH-47E aircraft. When required, aircrews will conduct aerial refueling and infiltrate, resupply, or exfiltrate supported SOF that are deep in enemy territory. They use night vision devices and terrain-following and avoidance radar under conditions of limited light and low visibility. They also rely on a comprehensive ASE suite. They may operate as single aircraft or in formations up to battalion size. In a high-threat environment, ARSOA assets may need additional combat support to enhance mission security through deception and other activities; for example, J-SEAD, fire support, and JAAT.

c. Flight Planning. Successful SO depend on detailed and coordinated premission flight planning. Early in the planning sequence, the mission aircrew must interface with the SOF team responsible for executing the ground phase of the mission. Paragraph 3-6 contains more details on SOF mission planning requirements.

d. Personnel Recovery. As with other aviation assets, ARSOA can perform personnel recovery missions of its own personnel. However, ARSOA is not organized, equipped, or trained to conduct continuing SAR or combat SAR missions. Services maintain responsibility for SAR and CSAR tasks that require operational alert procedures and dedicated C3 systems. Situations may occur, however, when ARSOA units must recover isolated personnel whose recovery is beyond the capabilities of conventional CSAR. These personnel recovery missions are direct-action operations. They require detailed planning, preparation, rehearsal, and thorough intelligence analysis. ARSOA provides the greatest support to the theater CSAR effort by assisting with evasion and recovery operations and other UW operations. This assistance is routinely coordinated with the joint force commander's joint rescue coordination center.

e. Launch and Recovery From US Navy Vessels. Air-capable Navy vessels provide excellent launch and recovery points to move supported SOF. The US Navy Shipboard Aviation Facilities Resume (NAEC-ENG-7576) provides planning criteria for launches and recoveries from Navy vessels. Published every six months, it also provides a list of all US Navy vessels that can launch and recover helicopters. Joint Publication 3-04.1 requires ARSOA pilots to undergo specific qualification training to operate to and/or from US Navy ships. This publication provides detailed guidance on shipboard operations. Facilities aboard combatant ships, such as the combat operations center and the all-source intelligence center, permit ARSOA aircrew members and supported SOF to plan SO missions while en route to the launch point.


ARSOA planners and the personnel who will execute the mission must be brought into the planning process from the beginning. Political considerations and changing threats figure prominently in SO planning. Changes in political objectives or constraints may cause operational characteristics to change rapidly and significantly. Therefore, personnel who have not been involved during situation changes will not fully understand or be able to execute the plan without risking its success.

a. Planning Considerations. Detailed mission planning is vital to successful execution and to the survival of all SOF that participate in the mission. SO mission planning is distinctive in its degree of jointness, its dependence on operational intelligence, and the level of participation by mission personnel. The mission planning agent, who is normally the supported SOF commander, and his staff are responsible for all air and ground phases of a specific SO. The ground phase includes premission planning, air infiltration, resupply, ground operations, air exfiltration of the ground element, and the mission debriefing. The MPA is responsible to the SOC for the entire special operations mission planning folder and mission execution. The JSOACC is responsible to the MPA for the air phase of the mission. The JSOACC must also ensure that aircrews are available to plan the mission. These considerations for SO mission planning are neither all-inclusive nor are they given any priority.

(1) Joint mission planning requirements. Special operations planning is a joint effort from the time the target is nominated until mission execution, recovery, and debriefing. SO planning depends strongly on operational intelligence and full participation by mission personnel. During interagency or combined operations, ARSOA must ensure that all participants understand the planning requirements.

(a) Reduced layers of command. Joint SO are conducted under the premise that unnecessary layers of command detract from the operation and involve personnel who do not have a valid need to know. Therefore, missions are compartmentalized and planned in isolation.

(b) Joint special operations mission planning folder. Normally, joint SO are deliberately planned well ahead of their execution. All information about a specific target is compiled in the SOMPF, which is the document that mission personnel use to conduct a mission. The lack of a SOMPF will slow the SO mission planning process. Appendix D provides a sample format of an SOMPF.

(2) Deliberate and/or adaptive planning. Whether ARSOA missions are deliberately planned or adapted for a crisis, certain factors will determine the success of the mission. These factors are discussed below.

(a) Detailed mission planning, based on specific, detailed, comprehensive, and accurate tactical intelligence, is vital to successful SO mission execution and the survival of the operational element. Based on the SOC mission tasking package, the designated MPA provides specific guidance and is responsible for the overall coordination of mission planning. Subordinate SOF commanders conduct coordinated, deliberate mission planning. Their objective is to develop a comprehensive plan that provides flexible mission execution.

(b) Supported SOF must remain flexible; they cannot afford to tie themselves to rigid plans. ARSOA commanders, however, must weigh the benefits of a rigid versus a flexible plan. A rigid plan allows a detailed study be made to ensure that the route selected is the safest for flights over unfamiliar terrain using night vision devices. A flexible approach allows mission crews to modify plans to achieve the commander's intent when an unexpected event occurs. Balance between the two approaches is the planners' responsibility.

(c) Deliberate SOF targeting and mission planning may require days or weeks to prepare for commitment into remote or denied territory. SOF commanders that act as the MPA are directly subordinate to the SOC. They direct subordinate SOF commanders, such as ARSOA, through mission letters. These letters focus on planning and training before mission execution. The supported SOF and the supporting ARSOA elements must understand the geographic, political, social, psychological, economic, climatic, and military situations in the target area. For some missions, they also must know the culture, language, customs,

ethnic and religious affiliations, and antagonisms of the target area. This level of area orientation is achieved through intensive study before employment, previous exposure to the area, or both.

(d) Adaptive mission planning is normally associated with contingency operations and fast-changing situations during conflict. Time is a critical factor and may limit planning and mission preparation when an SOMPF is not available. This is important because a successful mission depends on the quality and detail of mission preparation. ARSOA commanders should strive for an interactive planning and rehearsal process to refine and validate the mission planning accomplished under time constraints. If a full-scale dress rehearsal is impossible, a rehearsal of all critically timed events should be done in real time. If there is not enough time for detailed preparation, the ARSOA commander must determine the minimum essential preparation tasks and then modify the normal process to fit the time available. As shown in Figure 3-1, many SO units use 96 hours of planning time for the operational element. If the ARSOA commander cannot perform the planning tasks within the time available, he must inform the responsible commander.

(e) At theater level, SO targets are examined for appropriateness, feasibility, and supportability. The basis for this evaluation normally comes from input that liaison officers, air mission planners, operational aircrews, staffs, and commanders provide.

(3) Location of supported units. Face-to-face coordination between the supported and supporting units is the best and most preferred method of planning SO missions. However, depending on its complexity, mission planning can be accomplished without face-to-face coordination. To plan where ARSOA is positioned on the battlefield, planners must consider the factors of METT-T, the location of CS and CSS, and whether the SOC has created a JSOACC. SO commanders must consider where ARSOA assets will be located because of the added time needed to move from a rear area base to a launch site.

(a) While face-to-face planning is advantageous, dispersing aircraft and aircrews to special forces operational bases and forward operational bases reduces the ARSOA commander's flexibility to reconstitute his forces. Additionally, more crews may be required with decentralized basing. Aircraft maintenance is also a primary consideration when the decision is being made to split ARSOA forces. Limited numbers of special tools, test sets, and personnel to operate them, restrict the battalion task force's ability to support more than one maintenance location. The ARSOA commander must evaluate the intended operations tempo;

the number of teams to be infiltrated, exfiltrated, or resupplied; and the intended schedule and sequence. He must also evaluate the number of available aircraft and aircrews.

Figure 3-1. Mission planning cycle

(b) The SOF hallmark is, "Those who will execute the mission must plan it." However, ARSOA crews may not always be able to collocate with supported SOF units before the mission is executed. With a ratio of one to one and a half aircrews per aircraft, the preferred method is for aircrews to be isolated with the supported SOF from the onset of mission tasking. As a minimum, ARSOA must be integrated into the mission planning process with the ground element no later than the mission-concept phase. This will preclude changes that will delay the mission. Operations conducted at the low end of the continuum may allow collocation. In operations at the high end of the continuum, however, the number and duration of insertions, resupply

missions, and extractions will require intensive management of aircrew regeneration and long-term aircraft availability. At any level of conflict, ARSOA crews will be infiltrating, exfiltrating, resupplying SOF units, and pre-positioning aircraft for other crews. They may, however, be restricted by crew endurance while supported SOF units plan upcoming missions.

(4) Aircraft capabilities. ARSOA has a continuous operating capability. Its aircraft can penetrate hostile airspace under reduced visibility, at night, and during adverse weather. Range, payload, aerial refueling, and weapon requirements must be considered in selecting the appropriate aircraft for the mission. Aircraft capabilities are shown in Appendix C.

(5) Aircraft and aircrew availability.

(a) Planners must consider whether the SOs being planned will be of long or short duration. ARSOA has limited numbers of aircraft and aircrews. For example, an ARSOA TF normally has 80 percent of its assigned aircraft available for tasking; the other 20 percent is in scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. The ARSOA commander will provide the JSOACC with the number of aircraft available for mission support. If the theater SO campaign plan calls for a sustained operation, the ARSOA commander may be able to provide only 50 percent of the available aircraft for two reasons. First, aircrews require time to plan their missions and are not available to fly during that time. Second, use of the aircraft must be programmed and managed to establish an even flow of aircraft into routine and required maintenance inspections and checks. If the SOC needs to conduct short-term surge operations, the ARSOA can meet this requirement.

(b) For mission tasking or detailed infiltration planning, however, aircraft and aircrews should not be regenerated until 48 hours after they have been recovered. Another factor that may limit aircraft and aircrew availability is the need for standby quick reaction force recovery teams to conduct emergency extractions of committed SOF teams. Additional aircraft and aircrews are also required to perform SAR and CSAR. These crews are not available for infiltration, resupply, or exfiltration missions. Another significant planning consideration deals with the advent of the MH-60K helicopter. As previously stated, planning figures for aircrew availability will be one to one and a half crews per aircraft. The aerial refueling capability of the MH-60K allows for the increase in flight hours per mission.

(6) Priorities. The ARSOA commander, along with the JSOTF commander, establishes priorities for aircrew activity. Examples of aircrew activity include crew endurance, planning

time, mission rehearsal, personnel recovery, QRF, and recovery and reconstitution. Other activities include repositioning crews and aircraft for missions and mission execution. Incorrect priorities waste time and effort. Inadequate mission planning can lead to poor execution which may result in aircraft accidents and mission failure. Risk management (Appendix A) must be applied to the priority process.

(7) Physiological considerations. Lengthy ARSOA missions are frequently flown at night, in adverse weather, and behind enemy lines. Stress is higher in this operational environment than in the normal Army aviation climate. This added stress, as well as normal aviation psychological problems, must be included in the planning factors.

(8) SOF commander's intent. ARSOA planners must fully understand the supported SOF commander's intent. Conducting an undetected infiltration of an SF team can require more coordination with combat support units than a direct action mission. Planners must also create deception operations to mask aircraft movement.

(9) Mode of employment. The mode of employment (overt or clandestine) determines the level of coordination and operational security. Therefore, it is a primary consideration in mission preparation.

(10) Sustainment. ARSOA units have little organic support. Therefore, commanders depend on other units and the TA to sustain their logistical, personnel, and other vital CS and CSS functions. During lengthy conflicts, these requirements drive the level of sustainability.

(11) Launch and recovery point. The launch and recovery point is critical to crew endurance and to the positioning of aircraft for the next mission.

(12) Rules of engagement. Depending on the nature of the conflict, ROE vary from no collateral damage during counterterrorist operations to free-fire zones during war. The regional unified commander announces the ROE.

(13) Operational security. OPSEC is a command responsibility. An essential part of every SO mission, OPSEC includes planning, rehearsal, preparation, and support activities. The commander must designate the essential elements of friendly information.

(a) Electronic and communications security. Electronic and communications security must always be observed during the planning and execution of an SO.

(b) Deception. Deception can be used to mislead enemy forces. Deception activities must be believable, and the enemy must be given enough time to react. Deception activities must appear to be what they seem, and all enemy intelligence collection capabilities must be considered. Once the SOC approves the deception plans, the JSOACC coordinates them at theater level.

(c) Compartmentalization. Compartmentalization is necessary to protect the most sensitive operations. However, commanders and planners must not allow an operation to fail because of improper coordination.

(14) Objective area. The objective area and the local threat will dictate the courses of action that best use ARSOA assets.

(15) Availability of the special operations mission planning folder. Planners should determine the need for an SOMPF. An SOMPF reduces the time required to prepare a final plan and increases the probability of its success.

b. Joint SO Targeting and Mission Planning Procedures. Theater campaign planning drives the joint SO targeting process. The joint targeting process influences how SOF commanders plan and prepare for missions (Figure 3-2). Emerging world situations increase the probability that SOF will be employed in areas that may not yet be adequately covered by the joint planning process. Many situations will not follow the doctrinal planning model; therefore, ARSOA must remain practical and flexible in dealing with these situations. Joint Publication 3-05.5 and FMs 100-25 and 31-20 contain detailed discussions of the joint SO targeting process.

(1) Along with the MPA staff and the supported SOF unit, the ARSOA commander, as a supporting or supported commander, becomes involved in the joint SO targeting process during the initial and feasibility assessments. The MPA plans officer convenes the target assessment group. This group includes the ARSOA unit liaison officer, or air mission planner. The TAG determines whether the nominated target is a valid SOF target. If it is a valid SOF target, the TAG develops courses of action for further analysis. The ARSOA commander provides the MPA with input for a feasibility assessment of the COAs. If the MPA determines that the mission can be executed with an acceptable degree of risk, the initial assessment is prepared and forwarded to the SOC.

Figure 3-2. Special operations targeting process

(2) If the SOC concurs, he forwards the assessment to the JFC joint targeting coordination board for approval. If the JTCB determines that the target is feasible, it is added to the approved target list and assigned a priority. The JTCB then directs the SOC to prepare a SOMPF for the target. At the same time, the JTCB requests that the appropriate intelligence

agencies produce a target intelligence package to support the SOMPF. The package contains detailed information on the target, the operational area, and other aspects of the mission. Concurrently, and in close coordination with the supported SOF commander or MPA, the ARSOA commander prepares his supporting plans. Mission support plans must include how the supporting unit intends to meet the requirements identified in the POE (Figure 3-2). During unilateral SR or DA missions, the ARSOA commander assumes planning duties and is the mission planning agent. Depending on the nature of the mission, mission support plans and their annexes include but are not limited to--

  • Infiltration, resupply, and/or exfiltration.

  • Signal, intelligence, and other combat support.

  • OPSEC and deception.

  • Basing and other combat service support.

c. Reverse Planning Sequence.

(1) Sequence. The basis of SO mission planning is to start at the target and plan all requirements in reverse order of execution. Typically, SO missions have a specific time-on-target, but planners must verify with the supported element that there is a specific TOT or an event-driven requirement. When backward planning begins for a specific TOT, more variables must be considered and reconciled. Some examples of variables are airspace, friendly TACAIR, refueling, and recovery of aircrews and aircraft for follow-on missions.

(2) Task organization. Depending on the tactical plan, ARSOA task organizes to simplify the air portion of the SO.

(3) Air mission briefing. The AMB is conducted as early as possible in the planning process. Ideally, the AMB will be conducted no later than 24 hours before mission execution. The ARSOA TF staff prepares the AMB in a five-paragraph OPORD format. The staff presents the AMB to all participating ARSOA TF elements and representatives from the supported SOF units. The S2 provides the intelligence information. The S3 briefs paragraphs 2 and 3 (mission and execution) of the air mission brief, and the other staff officers brief their areas. The flight lead personally briefs all aircrews, the LO, the AMC, and all others who are directly involved in the mission. No detail is considered self-explanatory. Before departure, a final update briefing is given

to update intelligence, weather, and operational changes. A sample format for an air mission briefing is provided in Appendix B.

d. Key Personnel.

(1) Task force commander. The ARSOA TF commander organizes the TF and determines what assets support which missions. He must position himself where he can best influence the overall TF effort. Normally, this is where the majority of the TF assets and the operations center are located. To avoid confusion about how his assets support the SO ground forces, the commander issues clear, concise orders and guidance. Through personal contact and communication links, the commander unifies the effort required to accomplish the mission.

(2) Air mission commander. An AMC is designated for operations that involve two or more aircraft supporting the same mission. For company-sized operations, the aviation company commander or platoon leader is the AMC. When TF-sized SOs are conducted, the ARSOA TF commander designates the AMC. The AMC ensures that the air portion of the SO is conducted according to the air mission briefing and the intentions of the MPA. The AMC is responsible for air mission success and must decide on air mission execution. He places himself on the battlefield where he can most effectively influence the battle. The air mission commander is in charge of the flight before and during mission execution. The AMC coordinates all supporting operations along the flight route; for example, J-SEAD, JAAT, and EW. The AMC brings critical information to the planning table that shortens the time required to find acceptable solutions to ground tactical problems. He must be included in all aspects of mission planning. Aviation limitations and capabilities often affect the ground commander's actions on the objective. If the aviation commander is not included in the entire planning process, replanning the ground tactical plan may be necessary.

(3) Flight lead. The flight lead is subordinate to the AMC. He is responsible for route planning, navigation, and flight discipline to ensure that the flight arrives at the destination to meet mission parameters. The flight lead must be included in all aspects of the mission planning. He is the technical advisor before and during the mission. The flight lead is in the lead aircraft and makes immediate decisions created by changing situations. He navigates the aircraft or formation to remain on the planned flight route. He also adjusts the airspeed to arrive at the ACPs, meet scheduled combat support, and arrive at the LZ or PZ on time. The flight lead selects a mode of flight commensurate with the threat.

(4) Liaison officer. The LO is the ARSOA TF commander's representative. All ARSOA units require liaison with higher, lateral, subordinate, and supported units.

(a) ARSOA units are frequently tasked to supply several LOs at the same time. The ARSOA unit is not manned to support LOs; therefore, these personnel must come from mission crews. If not properly managed at all levels, this reduction in crews can adversely affect the unit's ability to plan and fly its assigned missions. A planner from each SOA task force element should review the liaison officer's support plan before execution.

(b) The importance of qualified ARSOA LOs cannot be overemphasized. At the supported unit, they may be required to conduct preliminary planning in the absence of a flight lead, select tentative LZs or PZs, and recommend combat support based on the threat. They must be rated special operations aviators with an additional skill identifier of K4.

(c) The complex ARSOA mission requires coordination to ensure success and to prevent aircraft and aircrews from being inadvertently placed in conflict with other operations. Liaison officers can provide valuable assistance to the units they support by keeping them informed of ARSOA doctrine, capabilities, limitations, and requirements. Equally, the ARSOA commander will be kept informed of the intentions of higher headquarters. He will also be kept informed of the intentions of lateral, subordinate, and supported units.

(d) Proper distribution of ARSOA LOs is critical to the success of SOF command and control and mission effectiveness. Normally, the JSOACC determines LO requirements, which are frequently extensive. The ARSOA TF commander should be prepared to provide LOs and/or air mission planners to the supported SF group or Navy special warfare task groups and the JSOTF. He must also be prepared to provide LOs and air mission planners to the SOC, TAF, TA, TNF, theater airspace manager, TASOSC, and others as appropriate. These LOs and air mission planners should have enough personnel to conduct 24-hour operations and enough communication equipment to coordinate with the appropriate agencies.

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