UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!



Application of A²C² in Low-intensity Conflict

US Army forces must be ready to undertake a variety of missions on the unique battlefields of low-intensity conflict (LIC). Low-intensity conflict is generally confined to a specific geographic area and is often characterized by constraints on the forces, weapons, and tactics employed and the level of violence.

The US Army's mission in low-intensity conflict is divided into four general missions: foreign internal defense, peacekeeping operations, terrorism counteraction, and peacetime contingency operations. These general missions are not mutually exclusive, but often overlap. Low-intensity conflict operations present Army forces with a changing set of situations as each operation faces a specific situation within a specific environment. Accordingly, the airspace control function is different in each operation. For further information on low-intensity conflict operations, refer to FC 100-20.

The four general missions of low intensity conflict have environmental characteristics which impact on the airspace control function. The commander and staff must adapt the doctrine, techniques, and procedures presented in this manual to the specific situation.


Foreign internal defense is the participation by civilian and military agencies of the United States in any of the action programs taken by another government to free and protect its society from subversion, lawlessness, and insurgency. This is basically a nation-building effort. The focus is on supporting the host nation in such a way that the host nation becomes the primary agent in most actions.

Airspace control generally centers around air traffic regulation and control of civil and military airspace users. In foreign internal defense, the ATC system of the host nation frequently provides the framework around which most of the airspace control function takes place. A tactical air control system may or may not be established. The A²C² system will require some modification as it consists largely of A²C² elements at the appropriate CPs, liaison elements with the host nation, and Army tactical ATS units that are task organized as the situation requires.

Bilateral and international agreements often establish regulatory guidance affecting the use of airspace and the conduct of air traffic control activities. Any required changes or waivers to national regulations, as well as problems which result from restrictions to military operations, should be forwarded to the commander, and may be referred to diplomatic channels for resolution.

Combat service support units are primary players in many foreign internal defense situations, and their activities may govern airspace control operations. Airspace control procedures and priorities will be established to support airlift activities. Establishment of SAAFRs, air routes, FARPs, landing sites and airfields, and supporting ATS facilities to facilitate the sustainment effort requires continuous and timely interface between the host nation, A²C² element, CSS cell, and supporting CSS, aviation, and ATS units.

Tactical operations are the most violent and extreme of all activities employed in foreign internal defense. A²C² functions within this context differ in minor ways from the procedures currently outlined.

Procedural airspace control plans and measures, such as weapons free zones, base defense zones, low-level transit routes, and identification requirements may or may not be required. Although the threat, friendly ADA system minimum risk passage requirements, and density of friendly air operations are not significant airspace control factors in foreign internal defense, A²C² remains as important as in any other military operation. First consideration must be given to national sovereignty and host nation laws and procedures. A²C² must be coordinated and integrated with these national procedures. Where these procedures are inadequate to support military operations, either training should be conducted, or host nation capabilities must be augmented by equipment or personnel or both. Augmentation is the least desirable course of action. Wherever possible, the host nation must solve its problems within its own resources, reinforcing its sovereignty and legitimacy.

Threat air defense capabilities generally do not force friendly air assets into the terrain flight environment. Aircraft operations at altitudes above the effective range of small arms and crew-served direct fire weapons may be the general rule. The requirement to establish a coordinating altitude is situationally dependent.

Airspace control in this environment primarily focuses on providing air traffic services, coordinating military airspace requirements with host nation civil air operations, and integrating and coordinating air operations with fires and the ground activities. Air traffic services may be expanded to provide greater positive control of airspace users.

Small unit operations typical in this environment require the focus of A²C² to be at the brigade and battalion levels. In these operations, the key to airspace control is the timely exchange of information to higher, lower, adjacent, and host nation units.


Peacekeeping forces provide the conditions that permit the establishment of stability and the political resolution of international or internal conflicts. Peacekeeping forces are interposed between two or more belligerents. This force may be composed of international contingents.

Terms of reference govern Army participation in the peacekeeping mission. They dictate how the airspace control function is 'accomplished and establish the policies and procedures governing the use of airspace. Of fundamental importance is that the airspace belongs to the belligerent entities involved. Use of that airspace by the peacekeeping force is governed by the terms of reference between the belligerents.

Airspace control activities in this environment are largely related to air traffic regulation and control. Special identification procedures and air traffic regulation may require that all flight operations are planned and coordinated with the appropriate ATC systems of the nations involved. Adherence to international civil aviation organization regulatory procedures must be considered.


The Army's primary role in terrorism counteraction lies in protecting personnel units, and facilities from terrorist acts. The measures adopted and implemented by command directives dictate how airspace is used and what airspace control functions are performed. Terrorism counteraction operations will overlap all aspects of military operations to some degree.

The impact of terrorism counteraction measures on the airspace control function is situationally dependent. Terrorism counteraction generally impacts on aspects of air traffic control and operations of air terminals, aerial ports, and Army airfields and heliports. The use of restricted areas around sensitive facilities is commonplace.


Army forces may be called on to participate in operations to resolve situations that involve US security for intelligence missions, raids, rescue missions, or other limited uses of force. These operations are characterized by the employment of specially tailored forces on short duration missions. These operations are typically joint in nature and may be combined. Army forces will encounter enemies whose capabilities vary widely, thus the airspace control function will to a large extent be governed accordingly.

The key to effective airspace control is an airspace control plan that supports the commander's concept of operations and intent. This planning must include joint representation and will typically be conducted under the leadership of the air component (airspace control authority) for the joint or combined force.

As with other low-intensity conflict environments, joint or combined airspace coordination and planning must address the following factors:

  • Transfer of airspace control responsibilities.
  • Air defense warning procedures.
  • Remotely piloted vehicle operations.
  • Air traffic control procedures.
  • Tactical air support plans.
  • Methods of positive and procedural control.
  • Airspace priorities.
  • Identification procedures.
  • Airspace control facilities.
  • Risk considerations.
  • Tactical plans.
  • Interoperability issues.
  • Language requirements.
  • Host nation civil ATC system interface.
  • International civil aviation organization interface.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list