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Chapter 1


1-1. Signal Support

Signal support is the implementation of the Information Mission Area (IMA) at the operational through tactical levels of war. It is also the collective, integrated and synchronized use of information systems. This use supports warfighting capabilities across the operational continuum. We need signal support to execute AirLand Operations successfully. Signal support is more than combat communications or automation and is larger than the Signal Corps. Signal support's primary mission is to support the commander. The signal support disciplines are--

  • Communications.
  • Automation.
  • Visual information (VI).
  • Records management.
  • Printing/publications.

All commanders participate in signal support. They own, operate, and manage their functional information systems. By using these information systems, commanders direct, coordinate, and support combat, combat support (CS), and combat service support (CSS) forces. These forces may include combined, joint, unified, or specified commands that require consideration when planning signal support.

1-2. The Threat

The Army's capability for worldwide deployment is essential if the US, with its allies, is to respond appropriately to conflicts wherever they may occur. In March of 1990, the Department of the Army released an unclassified overview of the Threat. The Defense and Central Intelligence Agencies coordinated this overview. It serves as a guide for our warfighting and planning for the next decade.

General. During the next several years, the US Army will face an increasingly complex international Threat environment. Changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe are changing how we view the Threat. Intentions seem peaceful, but we are only in the early stages of change and have not approached an end state. The rest of the world also has the potential for conflict. Rather, old and new regional animosities require the Army to be prepared to meet the full range of contingencies across all levels of conflict.

Soviet Military Threat.

The central factor affecting US interests in Europe is the military potential of the Soviet Union. Moscow and its Warsaw Pact (WP) neighbors seem intent on carrying out their declared defensive doctrine. They are also restructuring their armed forces on the principle of defense sufficiency. However, if arms control negotiations reach envisioned agreements, the Soviet Union will have the largest standing European Army. It also will be the only state capable of destroying the US. The Soviet armed forces now have vast equipment stocks and maintain a huge reserve manpower pool. They will keep a significant mobilization potential. Therefore, while the immediate Threat in Europe is diminishing, Moscow could generate forces through extended national mobilization capable of offensive action on a strategic scale.

The Soviet armed forces are undergoing conventional force modernization despite mandated reductions. Although Soviet procurement expenses are expected to decline, the ground forces continue to modernize their battlefield systems. Improvements in artillery, communications, and command and control (C2) systems could provide the Soviets with a fire support (FS) system. This system would have a greater range, increased accuracy, and more rapid responsiveness.

Nuclear force modernization continues throughout the Soviet armed forces. The Soviet's most striking feature is the extraordinary momentum of its offensive strategic nuclear modernization. The Soviets are deploying the new silo-based SS-18 MOD 5 heavy intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). It has at least 10 warheads and greater accuracy and throw-weight than earlier versions. The Soviets are also deploying two mobile ICBMs and the new Blackjack intercontinental bomber.

Soviet/East European Instability.

Politico-military factors point to instability as a likely feature of Europe during this decade. Optimism in the emerging democracies will soon give way to the realities of deep economic, political, and social problems these countries face. Quick fixes are not possible in these stagnant or dying economies, and hard times lie ahead under the most optimistic scenarios.

Instability in Eastern Europe will not be confined to non-Soviet states. In the United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR), thc outcome of internal revolution is far from certain. The Soviet Union itself will become less stable as it deals with its enormous problems. Reforming the economy is staggering in complexity and difficulty. The Baltic republics and other republics on the USSR's periphery will continue to press autonomy and independence from Moscow. Also, interethnic tensions could erupt violently during the decade as long-smoldering grievances surface in the more permissive climate of Glasnost.

Western Europe Concerns. In Western Europe, the uncertainties surrounding German reunification add to the instabilities created by rapid changes in Eastern Europe. The political and military relationships of a united German state to its neighbors will be a major factor in determining North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and WP security policies in the 1990s.

Regional Threats. US security concerns in Europe will continue throughout the 1990s. Regions outside of Europe will impact directly on US security interests. In each region, pressures will foster continued instability and the likelihood of conflict throughout the decade. While low-intensity engagements are more likely, large, conventional operations are also possible. When armed hostilities occur, our warning time may be very short. These exchanges will be far more lethal and destructive due to technologically advanced weapons throughout the third world. These high tech weapons will permit many nations to escalate conflicts to higher levels.

In Latin America, Cuba remains hostile to the US and several countries are unstable. Pressures facing many states include high foreign debt, population explosion, narcotics trafficking, and insurgencies. Together, insurgent and drug-dealing elements are resulting in the new phenomenon of narco-terrorism.

In the Middle East, domestic strife, interstate hostilities, interethnic and religious violence, and terrorism dominate the region. Rivalries between countries give way to widespread economic and political instability. With no fewer than ten Middle Eastern nations having 500 or more tanks and sophisticated weapons, any conflict could rapidly escalate in size, intensity, and lethality.

In Asia, mid-intensity conflict remains possible, most notably on the Korean peninsula. North Korea is increasingly isolated and militarized and remains hostile to US interests. The potential for mid-intensity conflict between Pakistan and India remains high. However, India militarily dominates southern Asia. Domestic problems in some Asian countries threaten their political stability. Insurgency continues and the threat of internal takeovers are real in many regional states. Throughout the region, narcotics trade aids in political instability.

Conclusion. Despite reductions in East-West tensions, ethnic and religious animosities and interstate rivalries continue in the third world. These traditional sources of strife, coupled with narcotics trafficking, terrorism, and modern conventional, chemical, and nuclear weapons, complicate the worldwide Threat environment. The US Army will need the ability to deploy mixes of heavy, light, and special operations forces in response to the likelihood of conflict and the potential for escalation from low-to mid-level intensity due to advance weapons proliferation.

1-3. The Operational Continuum

Military operations and activities are conducted within three general states of an operational continuum. The three states are peacetime competition, conflict, and war.

Peacetime competition is a nonhostile state in which political, economic, psychological, and military measures, short of combat operations or active support to a warring nation, are used to achieve national objectives.

Conflict is an armed struggle or clash between organized parties with a nation, or between nations to achieve limited political or military objectives. Conflict is often protracted, confined to a geographic area, and constrained in weaponry and level of violence.

War is sustained armed conflict between nations or organized groups within a nation involving regular and irregular forces in a series of connected battles and campaigns to achieve vital national objectives. War may be limited with some self-imposed restraints on resources or objectives. It may also be general, with the total resources of a nation committed.

The Army must be ready to fight and to succeed anywhere along the operational continuum, anywhere in the world, and at any level of war.

1-4. The Levels of War

War is a national undertaking that must be coordinated from the highest levels of policy-making to the basic levels of execution. The three levels of war are--

  • Strategic.
  • Operational.
  • Tactical.

Strategic. The level at which a nation or group of nations determine national or alliance security objectives. They develop and use national resources to accomplish those objectives. At this level, activities--

  • Set up national and alliance military objectives.
  • Sequence initiatives.
  • Define limits and assess risks for using military and other instruments of power.
  • Develop global or theater war plans.
  • Provide armed forces and other capabilities in accordance with strategic plans.

Operational. This level plans, conducts, and sustains campaigns and major operations. These accomplish strategic objectives within theaters or areas of operation. At this level, activities--

  • Link tactics and strategy by setting up operational objectives.
  • Sequence events to reach the operational objectives.
  • Begin actions.
  • Apply resources to bring about and sustain these events.

These activities imply a broader dimension of time and space than do tactics. They ensure the logistic and administrative support of tactical forces and provide the means by which tactical successes are exploited to achieve strategic objectives.

Tactical. This level plans and executes battles and engagements assigned to tactical units or task forces. At this level, activities focus on the ordered arrangement and maneuver of combat elements in relation to each other and to the enemy to reach combat objectives. In spite of the varied conditions and threats the Army will face, certain basic concepts, which apply to all warfare, have stood the test of time.

1-5. The Principles of War

For over 200 years, war has been waged by commanders versed (to varying degrees) in the following principles of war: objective, offensive, mass, maneuver, economy of force, unity of command, security, surprise, and simplicity. The following paragraphs describe how signal support merges, defines, creates, and supports these principles on the AirLand Battlefield.


Direct military operations toward a clearly defined, decisive, and attainable objective.

The signal support plan must include this objective. The force commander's objectives are translated into maneuver, CS, and CSS missions and priorities. These missions and priorities must be clearly defined and attainable. When accomplished, the force commander can focus total combat power on defeating the enemy.


Seize, retain, and exploit the initiative.

Commanders who recognize and seize the favorable situation create opportunities for victory in battle. Signal support must always be provided in the spirit of the offense. The maneuvering of the supported force requires using all signal support means to maintain the mobility of that force.


Concentrate combat power at the decisive place and time.

Signal support's provision of multiple information systems (dispersed throughout the battlefield) enhances a commander's ability to mass his resources.


Place the enemy in a position of disadvantage by using flexible combat power.

For signal support, maneuver is the ability to displace rapidly to keep pace with the maneuvering forces.

Economy of Force.

Allot minimum essential combat power to secondary efforts.

Signal support must follow the principles of economy of force. The signal support assigned to a given mission should not exceed the effort necessary to produce the desired objective if there are still unsupported missions.

Unity of Command.

For every objective, ensure unity of effort under one responsible commander.

Signal support assets must desynchronized on the battlefield. This synchronization is critical to success. It cannot be achieved without unity of command. Signal support assets, at the disposal of the force commander, must be so unified as to appear transparent. Well-defined command and support relationships ensure consistent operational and tactical use of signal support assets. The signal officer at each maneuver headquarters provides this same consistency for all operations.

Security. Never permit the enemy to gain an unexpected advantage. Tactical security measures must be taken during any military operation. There are two aspects of security relating to signal support.

The first aspect concerns general security of the force. The importance of providing continuous signal support to the force cannot jeopardize the security of the force--or if it does, only after calculating the risk(s).

The second aspect involves the physical security of signal support assets. Signal support assets, for example switching nodes, present high payoff targets for the Threat force. These assets need protection.


Strike the enemy in a time, place, or manner for which he is unprepared.

Surprise is an effective and powerful aim at the operational and tactical levels. It seizes the initiative, threatens enemy morale, and can reduce friendly casualties. Signal support assets provide continuous signal support during all stages of an operation (planning, issuing orders, and execution). Operational and tactical deception plans and operations security (OPSEC) help in achieving surprise. They are provided through OPSEC and signal support assets designated for deception.


Prepare clear, uncomplicated plans and clear, concise orders to ensure a thorough understanding.

The speed of events and the complexity of modern warfare and varying situations (for example, time of day, weather, and nuclear, biological, chemical (NBC) conditions) may lead to considerable confusion. Using signal support for connectivity, continuity, uniformity, and interoperability in close, deep, and rear operations requires innovative management and intensive coordination. Therefore, signal support plans and orders must be simple, clear, and concise to reduce confusion and ensure success. They must also encompass the signal support tasks as outlined below.

1-6. Signal Support Tasks

Signal support affects combat, CS, and CSS operations at the operational and tactical levels. During the execution of signal support, all commanders perform certain essential tasks. They--

  • Integrate force level C2.
  • Support the commander's campaign, operation, or battle plan.
  • Synchronize force operations.
  • Sustain force operations.

Integrate Force Level C2. Signal support must integrate key information systems used by all battlefield elements to support the force commander's C2. At each force level, the signal support structure provides the means to acquire, distribute, and store timely, accurate, and reliable information. This information goes to and from the force-level commander and his staff and to other functional areas and their staffs. This flow of information optimizes his C2.

Support the Commander's Campaign, Operation or Battle Plan. Good signal support increases combat effectiveness from theater Army (TA), corps, and division levels. Battlefield operations rely on signal support to sustain the commander's battle plan. Combat forces have processors, telecommunications devices, records management systems, and printing/publishing systems to provide information for critical requirements. This information allows the commander to exploit battlefield opportunities.

Synchronize Force Operations. Synchronization means that maximum combat power is focused at the decisive point to defeat the enemy on the battlefield. Success in offensive operations depends on the ability of friendly forces to close with the enemy and destroy their will to fight. Synchronization is essential to AirLand Operations. Yet, it can be the most difficult to achieve. Signal support provides commanders with the means to synchronize force operations. When signal support is planned early and continuously and it exists at the required time, then optimum synchronization of actions against the enemy occurs.

Sustain Force Operations. Signal support helps provide the basic sustainment operations for the total force. It provides the means to acquire, process, display, store, and distribute information to support all sustainment functions on the battlefield.

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