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Appendix K

Army Special Operations Aviation


This appendix provides a basic overview of Army Special Operations Aviation (ARSOA). FM 1-108 contains detailed information on ARSOA.


ARSOA is an integral part of special operations (SO). ARSOA units plan and conduct air operations in all operational environments across the spectrum of conflict. They are specially trained and equipped to conduct SO as part of an Army special operations task force (ARSOTF) or joint special operations task force (JSOTF). To employ this force properly, commanders must understand the basic characteristics of SO in general and ARSOA in particular. ARSOA provides the commander a means to infiltrate, resupply, and exfiltrate Army special operations forces (ARSOF) engaged in all core missions and collateral activities.



a. Plans, supports, and conducts special air operations.

b. Clandestinely and covertly penetrates hostile and denied airspace.

c. Supports special operations forces (SOF).

d. Conducts joint, combined, interagency, and coalition operations in regional crises, major conflicts, or as directed by the National Command Authorities (NCA).

e. Organizes, equips, trains, validates, and employs assigned aviation units for the US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC).


a. ARSOA units are trained and equipped to infiltrate, resupply, and exfiltrate US Special Operations Forces (USSOF) and other designated personnel. Training is specifically tailored to profiles that support the SOF mission. ARSOA units prefer to operate at night. They use night vision goggles (NVG) or night vision systems (NVS) and low-level flight profiles. They conduct training in all operational environments and terrain: desert, mountain, jungle, urban, and over water. Inherent in the training is the ability to operate from maritime platforms. Training emphasizes precise navigation over long-range and under adverse weather conditions.

b. ARSOA aircraft are modified to add the capability for aerial refueling; they are modified to enhance precise navigation, secure communications, long-range flight performance, and increased weapons lethality. The enhancements give ARSOA the unique capability to take advantage of adverse weather, limited visibility, or low ceilings. These conditions provide concealment for air operations; they help achieve surprise. Organic attack helicopter aircrews are specifically trained to provide close air support (CAS) and terminal guidance for precision munitions and support of SOF.


a. ARSOA has a limited CS and CSS capability. Standard supply and requisition systems, field service, maintenance, transportation, and medical resources and activities of the air support coordination center (ASCC) can meet the majority of ARSOA logistic requirements. ARSOA, however, has unique limitations uncommon to other general purpose (GP) aviation units and ARSOF.

b. ARSOA is not equipped or manned to-

(1) Provide its own food service or water storage; it requires food service 24 hours a day because of varied aircrew schedules.

(2) Secure its aircraft or operating base; it must operate from a secure base and airfield.

(3) Effect its own integration into the airspace control system; it requires support or augmentation for airspace deconfliction and tactical air support coordination.

(4) Accept supply point distribution or to conduct moves because it does not have the ground support assets necessary to accept supply point distribution or to conduct moves; it requires the unit distribution method of resupply and ground transportation support to conduct unit moves.

c. ARSOA is not equipped to provide sufficient billeting for its personnel; it requires climate-controlled facilities that must be compartmented and lighted to accommodate varied aircrew schedules.

d. ARSOA is not equipped, manned, or apportioned to the theater in sufficient quantities to provide even its own aerial resupply or to conduct its own unit movement; it requires GP aviation aerial resupply and aerial movement support.

e. ARSOA requires stove-pipe requisition and distribution systems for resupply of ARSOA-peculiar Class II, V, and IX items; resupply of these items cannot be met through normal requisition and distribution systems.

f. ARSOA personnel and equipment are not easily regenerated.


a. ARSOA consists of an Army special operations aviation regiment (SOAR)-the 160th SOAR(A) (Figure K-1). The regiment consists of a headquarters and headquarters company; a separate, forward-deployed combat assault company; three combat assault battalions; a special operations aviation training company; and a systems integration and maintenance office.

b. The ARSOA regiment's rotary-wing aircraft include the AH/MH-6 Cayuse; the MH-60 Blackhawk; the MH-60 variant, known as the direct action penetrator (DAP); and the MH-47 Chinook. ARSOA units are designed to plan, conduct, and support SO missions unilaterally or jointly in all theaters and all levels of conflict. To accomplish this mission, ARSOA units are task organized according to the unit they will support, the theater of operations, and expected missions. ARSOA task organizations are formed around one of the assault battalions.


Figure K-1. Special operations aviation regiment (A) (-)



a. ARSOA may be organized under varied command and control (C2) relationships. It requires a responsive and unified C2 structure that must be clear and well defined. This structure must delineate who is in operational control of the unit and who provides the required support. A clear, responsive command structure enhances mission response time and operational security (OPSEC). Excessive C2 layering must be avoided.

b. Regardless of the C2 structure, the relationship must-

(1) Provide for a clear and unambiguous chain of command.

(2) Provide for sufficient staff experience and expertise to plan, conduct, and support the operations

(3) Delineate support channels.

(4) Ensure ARSOA personnel are employed in the complete planning process. Personnel conducting the mission must be thoroughly familiar with all operational and support requirements to match capabilities with those of the employed force.


a. ARSOA may be task organized under-

  • A joint force commander (JFC).
  • A joint force air component commander (JFACC).
  • A joint force special operations component commander (JFSOCC).
  • A joint special operations air component commander (JSOACC).
  • A joint special operations task force (JSOTF).
  • An Army special operations task force (ARSOTF).

b. Doctrinally, ARSOA is not operationally or tactically controlled by GP forces. Normally, it is operationally controlled by a JSOACC or JSOTF (Figure K-2). When organized under the ARSOTF, no agency is identified to provide liaison with the JFACC. These functions must be provided by the ARSOTF staff or a special operations liaison (SOLE) provided by the JFSOCC. To clarify ARSOA's command relationships, the following definitions are provided:

c. The JFACC is normally the service component commander who has the preponderance of air assets to be used and the ability to C2 these assets. The JFC, who defines the JFACC's authority and responsibilities, designates the JFACC's responsibilities included, but not limited to, planning, coordinating, and allocating assets based on the JFC's apportionment decision.

d. The JFSOCC designates the JFSOCC. The JFSOCC designates, as the JSOACC, the service commander who either has the preponderance of the SO aviation force or is most capable of conducting, commanding, and controlling operations within a given environment. The JSOACC is a subordinate commander within the SOC. His responsibilities parallel those of the JFACC but within the confines of SO. He also is responsible for deconflicting and coordinating SOA with conventional air operations. A JSOTF may also have a JSOACC designated. Again, it is normally the subordinate commander with the preponderance of special operations aviation (SOA) assets or most capable of providing C2 The responsibilities of a JSOACC in a JSOTF are the same as when working for a JFSOCC.


Figure K-2. ARSOA task force C2



Liaison is an integral part of C2 for the ARSOA commander. Direct liaison by the air mission commander (AMC) and aircrews with supported and supporting units are required. Immediately following mission alert, the AMC and his mission planners work with the supported SOF-usually at the forward operational base-throughout the planning process. This standard procedure ensures that ARSOA's capabilities, operational considerations, and support requirements are incorporated into the plan.


a. Special operations principles are an important part of SO mission planning. The SO principles for ARSOA are given below.

(1) Integrate supporting ARSOA assets from the time the mission is initially analyzed, the course of action is determined, and until the mission is completed.

(2) Increase ARSOA effectiveness by using the tactical and logistic capabilities of other services and nations.

(3) Use near-real-time and all-source intelligence products during planning, rehearsal, and execution.

(4) Suppress hostile acquisition means and weapon systems before and during the mission.

(5) Employ the element of surprise by-

  • Conducting operations at night and during periods of low, ambient light.
  • Using deception measures.
  • Using terrain-following techniques.
  • Using the range capability to alter approaches.
  • Controlling or reducing electronic emissions during the mission.

(6) Concentrate SOF at the critical time by using precision timing and navigation.

(7) Maintain the ability to operate continuously.

b. ARSOA assets are not intended to provide aviation general support (GS) to SOF. Aviation GS should be coordinated through GP aviation forces in theater.


a. 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. Personnel who have not been involved during the entire process will not understand these changes and may put the success of the mission at risk. Detailed mission planning is vital to successful execution and to the survival of all SOF that take part 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.

b. 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 (TOT); however, 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 tactical air (TACAIR), refueling and recovery of aircrews and aircraft for follow-on missions. The levels of mission planning vary in time period, troops involved, and complexity.


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