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Military

Chapter 11
Air Defense Support

CONTENTS

INTEGRATED AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM
Goals
Phases
Principles
AIR DEFENSE OPERATION
OPERATIONAL-LEVEL ASSETS
Surface-to-Air Missiles
Antiaircraft Guns
Radars
Electronic Combat Support of Air Defense
COMMAND AND CONTROL
Centralization Versus Decentralization
Airspace Management
RECONNAISSANCE
Terrain Reconnaissance
Air Surveillance
Requirements
ELECTRONIC COUNTER-COUNTERMEASURES
MISSIONS AND EMPLOYMENT
Army Group
Army
Division
Air Defense Umbrella
Engagement Procedures
OFFENSE
Deployment
Nature of Air Threat
DEFENSE
Deployment
Antilanding Defense
MOUNTAINS AND WATER OBSTACLES

The main focus in this chapter is on air defense of maneuver forces at the operational level. However, operational-level air defense does not exist in isolation from the overall system of OPFOR air defense, which includes the strategic and tactical levels. Army group air defense plays a key role in the air defense operation, which is a major component of strategic operations within a theater. Army-level air defense also overlaps with tactical air defense coverage.

INTEGRATED AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM

State-of-the-art OPFOR air defense weapons at all levels of military art present a formidable threat to any potential enemy. Air defense effectively supports the concept and requirements of combined arms combat. The OPFOR believes air defense is best accomplished by a large number and variety of weapons and associated equipment integrated into a redundant air defense system.

Goals

The main objective of air defense is to prevent enemy air action from interfering with maneuver force operations. Air defense forces protect ground units and other potential targets from attacks by fixed-wing ground-attack aircraft, cruise missiles, and armed helicopters. Ground forces then can continue their own missions. The secondary mission of air defense troops is to protect air and airborne/heliborne missions forward of the line of contact.

Phases

Air defense of maneuver units consists of three phases. All three phases may overlap or may occur simultaneously.

Phase I includes all actions to destroy enemy aircraft and control systems while they are still on the ground at airfields or in marshaling areas. Aviation resources and surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs) play major roles in this phase.

Phase II includes all actions to destroy enemy aircraft while they are in flight but still at some distance from OPFOR ground forces. Aviation plays a significant role in this phase. Medium-range SAM units at the operational level may also play some role.

Phase III is the destruction of enemy airplanes and helicopters that penetrate the airspace of OPFOR maneuver elements. This role belongs primarily to tactical air defense forces.

Principles

The OPFOR follows several basic principles when conducting air defense: surprise, firepower, mobility, continuity, initiative, coordination, and security. Of these, the element of surprise is the most critical.

Surprise

Achieving surprise is fundamental to any successful air defense operation. The OPFOR is aware of the potential physical destruction it can achieve by attacking an unsuspecting and unprepared enemy. The OPFOR is also aware of the psychological effects of violent and unexpected fires on aviation crews. These effects are often only temporary, but they can reduce the effectiveness of air crews preparing to attack at critical moments.

The element of surprise is also increasingly important because of modern technological advances. The speed and evasiveness of modern aircraft reduce engagement times. Modern aircraft also have a great amount of firepower with which to suppress air defenses. These two factors make it necessary for units to achieve some degree of surprise.

Of course, the air enemy also is trying to achieve surprise, and the OPFOR must give careful consideration to how he might exploit the terrain in making a concealed approach. The principle of surprise is also important in the wider context of denying the enemy's intelligence organization an accurate and comprehensive picture of the deployment of air defense radars. This is a principal means of determining operational formation.

Firepower

The OPFOR force structure includes a wide variety of air defense weapons (both missiles and guns). This mix of capabilities gives ground force commanders outstanding firepower for air defense.

Mobility

When planning air defense, the commander must always consider the mobility of air defense weapons and the time required for their deployment. The ground forces, for which air defenses provide cover, are quite mobile and frequently change formation as they deploy. The air enemy is mobile, and can attack from many directions or altitudes. Therefore, the commander must use to the maximum the mobility and firepower of his assets, creating optimum groupings and fire plans.

Continuity

Air defense forces must provide continuous protection of critical organizations and assets. Only constantly moving air defense units that have adequate logistics support can ensure comprehensive air coverage. They must provide air defense day or night in all weather conditions. Mobility contributes directly to continuity.

Initiative

The modern battlefield is a fluid and volatile environment where air defense unit commanders must respond to constant changes in the situation. This demands aggressive action, initiative, and originality. Commanders must operate efficiently when communications with other air defense units fail. For example, if the supported unit receives a modified mission, the commander must reevaluate his own unit's deployment in light of the new requirements. He also must be aware of changes in the tactics enemy air forces employ.

Coordination

The OPFOR stresses coordination between supported maneuver and supporting air defense units and between air defense units. It views air defense as a single system composed of various parts. Air defense is an integral element of the ground battle.

All division-level air defense weapons must coordinate precisely with flanking units and with operational-level air defense, strike and assault aviation, and possibly even naval aviation. Failure to coordinate can result in gaps in the air defense umbrella, excessive ammunition expenditure, and casualties to friendly air forces. To achieve efficient coordination, the OPFOR stresses centralization, with army group headquarters playing a key role as a land-air interface.

Security

The OPFOR recognizes that enemy air assets can attack from any quarter. Therefore, it must provide security for units at any depth and from any direction. Air defense must function with unremitting reliability and overall security. This requires careful deployment, uninterrupted ammunition supply, and a comprehensive early-warning system. Commanders must factor security into air defense planning.

AIR DEFENSE OPERATION

The strategic air defense operation focuses on defending friendly forces and contributing to air superiority. The emphasis of air defense depends on whether or not the OPFOR has seized the initiative in the air and decimated enemy air power.

The primary method of achieving the initiative in the air is through the long-range fire strike phase of a strategic offensive (or defensive). If the fire strike succeeds, the air defense operation would focus on defensive actions to protect friendly forces and installations from the enemy's remaining air capability. However, the failure of the long-range fire strike to achieve its stated goals would mean the OPFOR might not hold the initiative in the air. Then, the OPFOR's highest priority in the continuing air defense operation would be to provide freedom of movement to friendly ground forces. Simultaneously, the OPFOR would attempt to cause maximum attrition of enemy air and air defense assets. The protection of friendly forces from air attack is crucial to the success of both army group offensive operations and the long-range fire strike.

In the air defense operation, the OPFOR attempts to gain the initiative through the combined offensive and defensive actions of the following forces:

  • Army group aviation.
  • Ground-based surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and antiaircraft (AA) gun systems of ground forces.
  • Electronic combat systems of ground forces.
  • Camouflage, concealment, and deception.
  • Air defense elements of other branches of the armed forces.

This coordinated operation of offensive and defensive forces should include attacks both against aircraft in the air and against their bases.

The air defense operation combines all ground- and air-based air defense assets in any theater under a single concept and plan within the context of the strategic operation. Together, these assets provide protection for--

  • Aircraft and missile systems conducting the long-range fire strike.
  • Ground maneuver forces striving to penetrate rapidly into enemy territory.
  • Tactical and theater nuclear weapons.

It also protects lines of communication and friendly air bases throughout the theater.

Initially, the air defense operation consists of two echelons: the air and air defense formations of the first-echelon army groups and the air defense forces protecting the rear area. Advancing first-echelon army groups could create gaps the enemy might exploit to attack follow-on forces. An air defense division belonging to an army group could provide coverage of these gaps and of important rear area concentrations. Air defense units at army group level and below provide coverage of forward areas and maneuver forces. This ensures continuity of air defense throughout first-echelon army groups.

OPERATIONAL-LEVEL ASSETS

The inventory of air defense weapons includes a variety of missiles, guns, and support equipment. Air defense weapons exist at nearly every level. As with its other weapon systems, the OPFOR has incorporated recent technological developments into its air defense weapons. In addition, it has developed a variety of SAMs for area coverage while continuing to deploy AA gun systems for point defense.

Surface-to-Air Missiles

An army group normally has one air defense division that provides air defense coverage of the army group rear area. The army group normally does not allocate assets belonging to the air defense division to subordinate armies. However, the number of medium-range SAM brigades and short-range AA gun regiments in the air defense division normally corresponds to the size of the army group. This division can have one or two medium-range SAM brigades. In addition, an army group can have one or two separate medium-range SAM brigades which may provide assets to augment army air defenses at critical points on the battlefield or may be used to cover gaps in the air defense umbrella.

An army usually has one medium-range SAM brigade. Generally, army-level air defense units have two missions:

  1. To complement divisional air defense capabilities in the forward area.
  2. To engage and destroy aircraft that pass the divisions' air defense systems.

Antiaircraft Guns

The army group's air defense division can have one or two AA gun regiments. These units are capable of only a limited area defense. The towed AA gun systems lack the mobility of self-propelled SAM systems and cannot fire on the move. Thus, they are better suited for short-range protection of individual locations. Within their range capabilities, these AA guns are extremely lethal weapons.

Radars

The OPFOR has extensive and effective radar target detection and fire control systems. The radars fall into two general categories: surveillance and fire control. Surveillance includes early warning, target-acquisition, and height-finding radars. Some fire control radars also have limited target-acquisition capability.

Radars work as systems rather than as separate units. The majority of target-acquisition radars are at the operational level. Army and army group air defense operations centers accumulate and process most target information and pass it to maneuver divisions.

High-level commanders select the weapon system that can best engage a given target. Army group, army, and division target-acquisition radars detect and monitor targets. The radars then provide the necessary data for engagement. They gather the information without unnecessarily exposing the air defense firing battery and radars mounted on transporter-erector-launchers and radars (TELARs) to detection by enemy forces and subsequent neutralization by electronic countermeasures (ECM) or destruction.

Electronic Combat Support of Air Defense

The OPFOR sees the employment of nonlethal air defense-related systems, such as air defense jammers and radar corner reflectors, as a potential combat multiplier, when employed in conjunction with SAM and AA gun systems. Their employment improves the air defense of high-value assets. They also support the OPFOR's own air operations by disrupting enemy counterair operations.

The goal of these systems is twofold. The primary goal is to force the attacking enemy aircraft to alter their flight profile, bringing them into the targeting umbrella of SAMs or AA guns. Jamming the terrain-following radars or radar altimeters employed by attacking aircraft forces aircraft flying low-altitude flight profiles to gain altitude, placing them in greater danger of SAM or AA gun fire. The secondary goal is to cause the aircraft to miss their target or abort the mission through the disruption of radar-aided bombing and target acquisition systems.

Passive systems such as radar corner reflectors provide a low-cost and effective addition to expensive jammers. These systems can deceive enemy airborne surveillance and target acquisition radars by providing false or multiple targets.

The OPFOR can have an air defense jamming regiment at army group level, with two to four battalions. The battalions employ a variety of radar and communications jamming and target acquisition systems. Air defense jammers target the onboard emitters of enemy aircraft used for terrain-following, navigation, and radar-aided bombing, as well as airborne radar reconnaissance systems. Electronic intercept systems provide targeting information to the radar jammers.

The OPFOR deploys air defense jamming assets, in conjunction with lethal systems, to defend what the OPFOR has identified as high-value assets. Normal practice is to allocate an air defense jamming battalion from the army group's regiment to each army or corps in the main effort. The remaining battalion(s) protect high-priority army group sites. Examples of these include air bases, major logistics centers, critical lines of communication and chokepoints, and higher-level military command posts.

COMMAND AND CONTROL

The OPFOR combines ground-based air defense assets with fixed-wing aircraft forces to provide an integrated air defense umbrella to ground units. Consequently, effective control of the airspace becomes more complex. The OPFOR recognizes the need for the various air defense forces to adopt common terminology. It also stresses the need for operations conducted with a single integrated plan under unified command and control (C2).

Centralization Versus Decentralization

Conflicting pressures for centralization and decentralization affect air defense control relationships. Factors favoring centralized control include the greater efficiency and effectiveness of centralized target detection systems and the increased ranges of modern SAMs. Decentralized control provides flexibility and shorter response times for supporting fast-paced operations by ground maneuver units.

In some situations, the army or army group directs the employment of divisional air defense assets. In general, the OPFOR imposes enough centralization to optimize efficiency while allowing sufficient decentralization for effectiveness.

Airspace Management

Airspace management is the most complex aspect of air defense operations. Because of the great variety of systems in the OPFOR inventory, commanders must divide the airspace among air defense systems and aviation.

The commander of air defense at army or army group level is responsible for airspace management issues and procedures.1 Coordination between aircraft and ground-based air defense systems requires either establishing zones of responsibility that delineate the airspace or assigning specific targets to specific systems (see Figure 11-1). The latter is likely only in a very low air threat environment.

Figure 11-1. Coordination of fighter aviation and ground-based air defenses.

Safe Corridors

The OPFOR assigns aircraft ingress and egress corridors through ground-based air defense sectors for specific time periods. This coordination allows the safe passage of aircraft through the forward edge of OPFOR air defenses.

The OPFOR may also designate time periods during which air defense units refrain from engaging aircraft unless directly attacked. Holding fire when control measures are absent ensures the safe return of OPFOR aircraft. However, the OPFOR would rather risk engaging a small number of its own aircraft rather than allow enemy aircraft to penetrate OPFOR air defenses. Therefore, airspace coordination is usually extremely aggressive.

Zones of Responsibility

The OPFOR might also establish a boundary parallel to and forward of the ground forces forward edge. This boundary is generally at the range limit of medium-range SAMs. Ground-based air defense systems would engage aircraft out to this boundary. Fixed-wing aircraft would engage the enemy beyond this boundary. The OPFOR is unlikely to use this technique unless it possesses air superiority.

RECONNAISSANCE

The concept of reconnaissance in air defense includes terrain reconnaissance and airspace surveillance for suitable weapons positions. It also involves likely routes of approach for low-flying aircraft. (Low-flying aircraft can include both ground-attack fighters and armed helicopters.) Continuous surveillance of surrounding airspace ensures current data on the enemy air situation.

Terrain Reconnaissance

The commanders of the supported unit and the supporting air defense element usually conduct a terrain reconnaissance. They may also conduct a preliminary map reconnaissance. This allows them to tentatively identify positions to deploy air defense weapons in defensive areas. They try to locate positions along routes of march or in areas that advancing units will seize. The OPFOR stresses the identification of all potential attack routes for low-flying enemy aircraft of all types.

Routes of approach suitable for armed helicopters and positions from which these helicopters might employ antitank guided missiles are of special concern. The OPFOR considers armed helicopters to be a serious threat to its tank and mechanized infantry forces. The OPFOR trains commanders to look for areas masked by trees or folds in the terrain where enemy aircraft might use nap-of-the-earth (NOE) flight techniques to avoid radar detection.

Air Surveillance

Air defense planners at all levels integrate radars into an overall system of coverage. Army early warning battalions deploy their radars 10 km or so from the line of contact. This gives them the ability to detect medium- and high-altitude targets up to 160 km in the enemy's depth and low-flying aircraft out to 80 km. Battalions of the army-group's early warning regiment or brigade establish a second line of radar posts about 50 km behind the first to give depth.

Both army groups and armies maintain reserves to expand coverage as the operation develops, to replace casualties, or to establish a new line of radar posts. While offensive operations are in preparation, army posts remain inactive as part of camouflage, concealment, and deception, and the army group reserve radars deploy forward.

Fire control elements turn on radars at the last minute to achieve surprise and to avoid exposing themselves to enemy electronic or physical attack (including antiradiation missiles). The air surveillance radar network is difficult to avoid or defeat. Large numbers of radars are highly mobile and can quickly displace.

The wide spread of operating frequencies makes ECM difficult. Operator training stresses electronic counter-countermeasure skills and the use of radio and electronic silence where possible. Units back up radar reconnaissance with visual observation. The OPFOR stresses that the latter is still as important as it ever was, especially against low-flying aircraft. Maneuver divisions and brigades have a radio net devoted exclusively to the passage of air and NBC warnings.

Requirements

The OPFOR's success depends on the creation of a clear picture of the air situation as it develops. This information is necessary to determine the enemy's plans, air order of battle, and objectives. The OPFOR can then assign targets to fire units or redeploy resources. Necessary data also include the positions, types, numbers, direction, speed, and altitude of aircraft in flight. Radio intercept provides some data, but most comes from air defense radars.

The OPFOR further divides air defense intelligence data into two categories: information on enemy air actions and information that can complete the picture of the overall air situation.

It is critical for the OPFOR to obtain data necessary for planning and organizing the air defense system and which allows it to determine probable enemy actions. Such information could include--

  • The composition and strength of enemy air power.
  • The capabilities of enemy aircraft.
  • Knowledge of enemy operational and tactical employment of air power.
  • The locations of airfields, C2 centers, resupply bases, and production facilities.
  • Avenues of low-level flight.

ELECTRONIC COUNTER-COUNTERMEASURES

The OPFOR uses electronic and electro-optical means and visual observation to conduct air surveillance. Radar provides an all-weather detection capability. When possible, higher-level radar units pass preliminary targets to air defense commanders and their firing batteries. This reduces the vulnerability of battery radars and radar-equipped gun carriages and missile launchers to ECM and antiradiation missiles.

Measures taken to improve air defense system security include the following:

  • Signals security. SAM and AA gun system radars, which move forward to cover the initial assault, remain silent until after the assault begins.
  • Frequency spread. Each of the air defense systems operates within separate radar frequency bands. (No one jamming system could operate simultaneously against all bands.)
  • Frequency diversity. Tracking and guidance radars change frequencies to overcome jamming.
  • Multiple and interchangeable missile guidance systems. Some OPFOR systems work on pulsed radar; others work on continuous waves. Some radar tracking systems also possess optical tracking for continued operations in a high ECM environment; others systems use infrared homing.
  • Mobility. All OPFOR tactical air defense systems are mobile.2 They can quickly change positions after firing or after enemy reconnaissance units detect them.

MISSIONS AND EMPLOYMENT

It is impossible to defend everywhere adequately. Therefore, the OPFOR must establish priorities to ensure dense coverage of key assets. Priorities include airfields, SSMs, artillery, maneuver units, headquarters and communications centers, and rear area objectives such as logistics units and lines of communication bottlenecks. The OPFOR gives priority to protecting the formation's main axis and, within that, to protecting the first echelon.

Army Group

Army group headquarters plays a major role in the control of the air defense assets of its subordinate units. The army group uses its own air defense weapons for various missions, depending on the situation. Some army group assets might cover the air defense weapons of subordinate armies. Others might provide general air defense coverage of the army group or fill gaps between armies. In any event, army group air defense assets primarily ensure continuous coverage in both detection and engagement capabilities. Army group air defense weapons usually are somewhere to the rear of army air defense weapons to engage aircraft that penetrate forward air defenses.

The army group uses medium-range SAMs in many ways. Some units may augment army assets. Others provide cover for gaps between armies or provide general area coverage, giving depth to the defensive effort but overlapping with army envelopes.

Army

The medium-range SAM units of armies provide medium- to high-altitude air defense cover for the whole army area. They also protect key targets such as the army or army group command posts (CPs), operational-tactical SSMs, artillery groups, and reserves.

Army SAMs also augment the air defense assets of divisions. For first-echelon armies, coverage extends out to about 25 to 45 km over the line of contact. Laterally, this SAM coverage overlaps the envelopes of adjacent armies where possible.

Division

Divisional short- and medium-range SAMs provide area coverage for the entire division, overlapping with flanking formations. Typically, two batteries might be in direct support of two first-echelon brigades while the other two to three protect the division CP, division artillery group(s), second-echelon, and logistics units. Depending on the specific SAM system employed, coverage can extend from about 7 to 25 km over the line of contact.

Air Defense Umbrella

Air defense assets from army group down through division create an area defense. Radars provide an unbroken detection envelope extending well into enemy territory and across the entire zone of operations. Army group and army medium-range SAM units are probably the first to engage enemy aircraft that slip past fighters. While gaps may appear in the missile engagement envelope, the OPFOR strives to maintain continuous coverage.

Figure 11-2 illustrates an example of the vertical coverage and one dimension of horizontal coverage of the OPFOR's air defense equipment.3 Although now shown in this example, all SAM systems have a minimum range and a minimum altitude. Of course, the range beyond the line of contact depends on where the system deploys in the operational formation.

Figure 11-2. Air defense coverage (example).

There is no set pattern for the deployment of SAM brigades or regiments and their subordinate batteries. Actual deployment depends primarily on the supported unit's mission, terrain, and the ground and air situations at a given time and place in the operation. Generally, weapons at army group level and below deploy rearward from the line of contact at from one-third to one-half of their engagement range. Using this rule of thumb, typical distances behind the line of contact could be--

  • First-echelon division short- or medium range-SAMs--5 to 10 km.
  • First-echelon army medium-range SAMs--10 to 45 km.
  • Army group medium-range SAMs supporting first-echelon army--25 to 50 km.
  • Army group medium-range SAMs protecting army group rear area assets--100 to 150 km or more.

This deployment scheme causes enemy aircraft attempting to penetrate to run into overlapping defensive systems.

If the air defense umbrella does not move forward when necessary, tanks and mechanized infantry units can become exposed to enemy ground-attack aircraft and armed helicopters. The only alternative is to move the air defense umbrella with the units. In a fluid, fast-developing situation, textbook efficiency may not be possible. Temporary gaps might appear in the air defense umbrella, both in surveillance and in weapons coverage.

Engagement Procedures

The OPFOR prefers to engage a hostile aircraft prematurely and waste some ammunition rather than allowing the aircraft to expend its ordnance. The OPFOR fires on aircraft as long as they remain within range.

On a priority basis, the OPFOR engages aircraft posing the greatest threat. The preferred technique is to fire at an already engaged target rather than switching from target to target. This continues unless a later acquired target seriously threatens air defense elements.

Air observers and weapon crews outside the attacked sector maintain observation and readiness to fire. This precludes enemy success through simultaneous air attacks from several directions.

OFFENSE

The OPFOR has an extensive air defense system to protect attacking maneuver units. The air defense units of this system are a vital part of the combined arms operation. Air defense weapons can fully support fast-moving tank and mechanized infantry forces in dynamic offensive combat.

Deployment

Guidelines for the deployment of air defense units depend on the assessment of the air threat, terrain, mission, and tempo of operations. The shape of the air defense deployment can change as supported units move from the march into meeting engagements, conduct attacks from a position in direct contact (including forced river crossings), or launch a pursuit. The most common methods follow:

  • Where the air threat is low, the commander assigns the complete air defense unit lines of deployment to occupy in succession. When an army is to attack with extensive artillery preparation, much of its air defense deploys forward in advance to cover its artillery group(s) and lines of deployment of tactical units into prebattle and battle formations. The army or army group uses the same procedure to cover the commitment of an operational maneuver group.
  • When the air threat is continuous, air defense units may leapfrog forward into successive firing positions, maintaining continuous coverage of supported units.
  • In a highly mobile, fragmented operation, the OPFOR might integrate air defense into combat groupings and occupy temporary firing positions on less likely approaches or in gaps between the coverage of the main air defenses.

Air defense units of army group and army conduct what is basically an area defense. They engage enemy aircraft at some distance from the supported maneuver divisions and other high-value assets. Divisional SAM regiments primarily conduct an area defense.

In an offense, the exact location of air defense weapons depends on the following factors:

  • The mission of the supported unit.
  • The commander's chosen attack formation.
  • The terrain.
  • Fields of fire and observation.

Nature of Air Threat

Air defense units relocate as necessary to provide continuous and effective protection to the supported unit. OPFOR commanders maintain effective protection by leaving at least one battery in firing position to cover the movement. Air defense elements reinforcing a maneuver unit usually move as a part of that unit if the air threat is high. These air defense assets may move separately to a new location if there is little or no air threat.

The OPFOR believes that air power plays an increasingly important role in contemporary war, thanks to increases in payload, range, and accuracy. Current estimates are that 50 percent of the destructive fire potential in the tactical zone belongs to aviation.

Operations from the air have ceased to be auxiliary and have become a critical component of combined arms combat. Thus, the OPFOR can successfully execute deep, high-speed, nonstop operational advances only if it can negate enemy air power. Operational success depends on air superiority when and where it matters most. Conversely, failure to provide effective air defense against enemy air power can result in operational and tactical failures.

DEFENSE

Air defense must provide all-around security because air attack can come from any direction. The OPFOR must coordinate fires between all air defense units and supported maneuver units. This provides an integrated air defense.

Air defense units provide coverage to all levels of the organization. They must integrate this coverage with the ground battle and ensure continuous air defense.

Deployment

Deployments closely parallel those in the attack, but there are some differences. The positioning of operational-level air defense assets depends on the overall operational formation for the defense. For example, an army-level SAM brigade might deploy near the rear of the army first defensive zone (15-30 km to the rear of the forward edge of the defense) or behind the army second defensive zone (60 to 80 km from the forward edge) to provide cover for an army CP or SSM brigade. An army group SAM brigade might deploy behind the first-echelon army's final defensive line (anywhere from 50 to 150 km from the forward edge) to protect the army group's main CP, SSM brigade(s), airfields, or other high-value assets located there. The SAMs of either operational level might cover lines of commitment for an army or army group counterstrike. The OPFOR sees the threats posed by air reconnaissance and airborne or heliborne assault as being greater in the defense and devotes greater effort to guarding against those threats.

Antilanding Defense

Air defense units are significant in defending ground forces against attacks by enemy airborne and airmobile troops. When the OPFOR detects an enemy airborne operation, army group aviation attempts to intercept and destroy enemy transport aircraft. They try to do this while the enemy is at marshaling airfields or en route to drop zones.

Army group, army, and divisional SAM units engage transport aircraft entering their respective air defense zones. Brigade air defense units near the drop zones also engage transport aircraft. Self-propelled AA guns; vehicle-mounted machineguns; and small arms all fire on descending paratroops and equipment.

MOUNTAINS AND WATER OBSTACLES

Air defense units operating in mountainous terrain have unique problems. The rugged terrain makes maintaining maneuver and air defense unit integrity difficult. This, in turn, makes maintaining comprehensive air surveillance and air defense fire support more difficult, resulting in a greater degree of decentralization than normal.

Air defense forces play a major role in water obstacle crossings. They protect crossing sites and forces from air attack by creating envelopes of protected airspace above and around crossing sites.

Major problems in air defense of water obstacle crossings include--

  • Providing comprehensive radar and visual observation.
  • Handling simultaneous threats on multiple approach axes.
  • Maintaining continuous 360-degree fire coverage.
  • Supplying ammunition to firing elements on the far shore.

1 At army group and army level, this member of the staff has the title of commander (rather than chief air defense. Among the branch chiefs on the principal staff, this is a distinction otherwise afforded only to the commander of missile troops and artillery.

2 When referring to air defense systems, the term tactical can also apply to systems employed at the operational level.

3 This example depicts only those systems listed as the baseline in FM 100-60. The SA-8, and SA-15 are division-level short-range SAMs; the SA-6 is a division-level medium-range SAM; the SA-11 is an army-level medium-range SAM; the SA-4 is an army- or army group-level medium-range SAM; the SA-12a and SA-12b are army group-level medium-range SAMs. If the OPFOR substitutes other systems, ranges and altitudes can vary.



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