THE AIR ASSAULT (AASLT) DIVISION
This chapter describes the AASLT division's organization, capabilities, and limitations; its brigades, separate battalions, and separate companies. The AASLT division is austere and capable of conducting independent operations for only 48 hours. It makes optimum use of offensive, decentralized, irregular-type operations by highly trained small units.
The AASLT division can conduct deep operations, urban and jungle warfare, infiltration operations, and control land areas, including local populations and resources. It can destroy enemy armored vehicles on any battlefield.
The AASLT division uses helicopters to provide enhanced combat power and tactical mobility to infantry, artillery, combat support (CS), and combat service support (CSS) units (Figure 1-1). Division organization includes--
- A brigade HHC.
- Three assault battalions (to provide combat lift aircraft for troops and equipment).
- Three attack helicopter battalions (AHBs) (to range fast and deep to destroy enemy forces).
- One medium assault battalion (to provide combat lift for heavier troops, weapons systems, materiel, and supplies).
- A command aviation battalion, which includes the division's pathfinder detachment and aerial electronic warfare (EW) detachment (to provide general support (GS) for the division's command posts (CPs), including courier service).
- One air cavalry squadron (to conduct reconnaissance and security (R& S) operations).
- The HHC, including the division materiel management center (DMMC), division movement control center (DMCC), and the division medical operations center (DMOC).
- Three forward support battalions (FSBS) (to provide medical, supply, and maintenance support to the maneuver brigades).
- One main support battalion (MSB) (responsible for medical, supply, maintenance, and truck transportation support throughout the division area, including bolstering the efforts of the FSBs).
- One aviation intermediate maintenance (AVIM) battalion (to repair the division's aircraft).
- An air ambulance company (to ensure aerial casualty evacuation).
- Provides support by combatting enemy forces in rear areas.
- Conducts area security missions, providing security to critical division resources.
- Expedites movement of critical combat resources while conducting battlefield circulation control (BCC) missions.
- Evacuates and controls enemy prisoners of war (EPWs).
- Provides police services, keyed to the echelon commander's priorities, as needed.
The CSG provides additional CSS capabilities for sustained operations.
In organization for combat, the principal decision involves allocation of aviation assets. The commander must mass all aviation assets to fully achieve the aviation brigade combat capability for lift and AHB assets.
Situational factors may dictate distribution of some or all aviation assets. The commander and staff must consider all the factors affecting the division before recommending or making a decision to split aviation assets (Figure 1-2). Rarely would aviation be task-organized to a battalion to accomplish a mission.
The AASLT division--
Characteristically, the division exercises its capabilities--
The division exhibits several noteworthy limitations:
The division's three maneuver brigades are the principal headquarters charged with integrating and fighting AASLT combined arms teams. An AASLT division fights by continuously leapfrogging brigades either forward, laterally, or to the rear, moving one brigade-size unit every 24 hours. As a result, maneuver brigades routinely receive attached, operational control (OPCON), and direct support (DS), CS, and CSS forces.
In strictest terms, only the HHC is an organic brigade element. The brigade may be assigned from two to five maneuver battalions with three AASLT infantry battalions as the norm. When task-organized, brigades often receive--
There are two limitations. One is reliance on aviation for battlefield mobility, with the consequence of allowing for weather extremes, enemy air defenses, aircraft maintenance, and aircrew endurance. The other includes the significant CSS requirements for fuel, ammunition, and aviation parts and the demand for a major aviation resupply effort, use of US Air Force (USAF) airlift and airdrops, or ground lines of communication (LOC).
The AASLT infantry battalions that constitute the brigade's primary maneuver component close with the enemy to destroy forces, secure and defend terrain and facilities, and carry out air assaults and raids. With an HHC, three rifle companies, and an antiarmor company, these battalions have sufficient power and flexibility to fight against enemy armored and dismounted troops.
The AASLT infantry battalions train for night heliborne operations. Under certain conditions, an AASLT battalion TF might perform independent missions such as raids and rear operations.
The AASLT division's aviation brigade contains the forces most responsible for the division's tempo, range, and combat power. The aviation brigade conducts combat operations, especially deep attacks, either with air assaults or separately. It can act as a fourth maneuver brigade when task-organized with combat, CS, and CSS units.
During operations, the division may allocate lift units to maneuver brigades or DISCOM. The air cavalry frequently works directly for the division, which allows aviation brigade headquarters to focus on deep attack aviation missions and future operations as well as to synchronize all operations (close, deep, and rear).
When allocated by higher headquarters, the brigade accepts OPCON and/or attachment of corps aviation units. The brigade--
Six limitations influence the aviation brigade's performance:
1. Weather extremes.
2. Enemy air defenses.
3. High consumption of ammunition, fuel, and aircraft repair parts.
4. Lack of any substantial capability to dig in and defend aircraft staging and servicing areas unless augmented.
5. A significantly broad span of command and control (C 2 ) if the brigade serves as the AMC for brigade-size AASLT operations and simultaneously conducts deep attack missions with its attack aviation battalions.
6. Aircrew endurance.
The AASLT division has over 300 aircraft. However, to maintain a high OPTEMPO, the division requires additional aviation augmentation. By design, only one-third of the ground force can air assault at any one time. Therefore, aviation's task organization becomes one of the most crucial issues in determining the success of divisional operations.
The DIVARTY headquarters staff synchronizes all supporting fires and provides FA fire support to the AASLT division. DIVARTY headquarters consists of a CP, liaison section, fire support element (FSE), communications platoon, survey planning and coordination element, and meteorological section.
Air assault operations challenge DIVARTY in both coordination and delivery of supporting fires because the division habitually operates well outside the firing radius of tube artillery. DIVARTY coordinates alternate fires and AASLT FA batteries into and adjacent to maneuver-unit landing zones (LZs).
DIVARTY exhibits four limitations:
1. Organic howitzers cannot fire most improved artillery munitions.
2. Reinforcing self-propelled (SP) tube and missile batteries cannot air assault.
3. Air assaults usually far outrange most indirect fire support means, especially all varieties of tube artillery.
4. Air assaults and deep aviation attacks consume large quantities of ammunition to suppress, neutralize, and destroy enemy air defenses, fire support, and mobile reserves.
DIVARTY and the aviation brigade work together to set conditions for successful cross-forward line of own troops (FLOT) operations. Fire support superiority is essential to deep air assaults and deep attack operations.
Combat service support presents many challenges for the AASLT division. Massed use of rotary-wing aircraft demands substantial fuel, ammunition, and repair parts. Supply, medical, maintenance, and transportation support must span vast distances and displace forward in tempo with AASLT operations.
The DISCOM ensures CSS to far-ranging AASLT forces. DISCOM--
The DISCOM operates under four important limitations:
1. It cannot adequately dig in and defend its service elements and commodities using only organic assets; in addition, FSBs are not staffed for 24-hour operations.
2. It must have a ground LOC if weather precludes Army aviation (AAVN) or USAF airlift support; aviation units cannot sustain combat operations without a constant infusion of supplies.
3. Armored units task-organized to the division can overtask the austere DISCOM. The armored unit's parent organization ensures that a full support package accompanies the armored unit to the AASLT division.
4. The DISCOM requires a CSG to sustain its operations (especially with Class III and V supplies and transportation assets) and support attached units such as armored forces to the division. The DISCOM can support the division for only a few days without resupply from the CSG.
Like artillery and other combat multiplier forces, the DISCOM features units and equipment optimized to employ AAVN. To guarantee continuous AASLT operations, it must receive its share of division aviation.
Freedom from enemy air attacks permits the AASLT division to fight and sustain its operations and forces. Although most conceivable contemporary threats will not gain air superiority over an American corps or JTF, strong individual raids remain a concern. Air defense is vital given the lucrative targets which an AASLT division's aviation assembly areas (AA), CSS sites, and PZs pose.
The ADA battalion consists of one HHB and four firing batteries. It provides forward-area air defense (FAAD), an air battle management operations center (ABMOC), and early warning of enemy missile, fixed-wing, and rotary-wing threats. One firing battery habitually provides DS to each maneuver brigade; the fourth supports aviation brigade, DIVARTY, DISCOM, and other division troops.
The ADA battalion's capabilities include--
The commander and staff must also consider four unit limitations:
1. The division relies on the corps or JTF for highto medium-altitude air defense (HIMAD).
2. The division receives warnings of inbound threats through the corps or JTF.
3. The current ADA organization does not include any cannon system for point defense of targets, and overreliance on the Stinger family of weapons may simplify enemy countermeasures.
4. Vehicle-mounted ADA systems require medium assault aviation to displace by air.
The commander and staff always analyze the METT-T factors to determine how much, if any, ADA support is to accompany maneuver forces during an air assault.
Air assault forces employ engineers to shape terrain for survivability and countermobility. Light engineer units breach and reduce obstacles and per-form general engineering tasks to build and upgrade roads, bridges, airstrips, and LZs or PZs. Air assault engineers work throughout the division AO from the front lines to the rear boundary.
The engineer battalion consists of one HHC and three line companies. Typically, one line company is attached to each maneuver brigade. The engineer battalion's capabilities include--
The engineer battalion has five limitations:
1. It requires additional support from corps or JTF levels for bridging, general engineering, and survivability support to rear area units.
2. It only performs limited survivability tasks with organic equipment. (DISCOM and the aviation brigade share the equipment that supports the division HHC or they strip out assets normally sent to maneuver brigades.)
3. Engineers require medium lift aircraft to air assault their equipment.
4. Employment as infantry requires addition of fire support teams.
5. The division has no organic bridging to support ground supply truck convoys conducting river crossings.
Intelligence and electronic warfare (IEW) allows AASLT forces to see the battlefield while denying the enemy the same opportunity. The MI battalion consolidates and integrates most of the specialized, technical aspects of the various collection and EW systems.
The MI battalion includes a headquarters and a headquarters and headquarters support company (HHSC), three direct support MI companies, one GS company, and a long-range surveillance detachment (LRSD). The companies are organized as follows:
- Battalion headquarters and the analysis and control element (ACE).
- The maintenance section.
- The communications and electronics (C&E) maintenance section.
- A dining facility (DFAC) section.
- The C&E platoon with three low-level voice intercept (LLVI) teams and one electronic countermeasures (ECM) team.
- The intelligence and surveillance (I&S) platoon with a counterintelligence/interrogation section and a remotely monitored battlefield sensor system (REMBASS) GSR section.
- A signal intelligence (SIGINT) platoon.
- Three GSR squads, five REMBASS teams, one interrogation of prisoners of war (IPW) section, and one CI section.
- An I&S platoon with a GSR section.
- Two base radio teams.
- Six surveillance teams.
The MI battalion--
The MI battalions's major limitation is that air assaults range well beyond the effective radius of C&J systems. Therefore, corps or JTF and national resources must look deep for the division until the division can deploy these assets forward on the battlefield.
Commanders and staffs consider METT-T factors for employing MI assets. These assets can continue to support the division's close operations or they can perform air assault deep behind enemy lines to collect intelligence for future operations. Military intelligence assets are normally not left in reserve.
Air assault division operations place great burdens on military communications by rapidly stretching networks to extreme ranges. The AASLT division signal battalion provides the following:
The signal battalion links major division CPs, maneuver brigades, the aviation brigade, DIVARTY, DISCOM, the ADA battalion, the engineer battalion, and the MI battalion. It consists of an HHC, two area signal companies, and a signal support company. The battalion organizes for combat by providing an MSE "backbone" network with extension teams providing connectivity of divisional units into the tactical phone network. It--
There are two limitations when using air assault MSE equipment:
1. Air assaults routinely exceed the bounds of terrestrial line of sight (LOS) communications systems and may require installation of LOS relays.
2. An MSE system requires medium lift assault aircraft for transport.
Combat commanders may air assault MSE units forward if they are willing to commit sufficient medium assault aircraft. Once in place, MSEs allow the AASLT task force commander to communicate through the theater network.
The AASLT division's chemical company offers dual-purpose smoke and decontamination platoons. It includes the division chemical section, company headquarters, and three smoke and/or decontamination platoons. The chemical company--
- Provides an NBC defense platoon in DS to each maneuver brigade.
- Is METT-T dependent.
- Is capable of decontamination support or of producing a 2-kilometer-wide smoke screen when in the mobile mode.
Five limitations which hinder the chemical company include the following:
1. If all three platoons are task-organized to maneuver brigades, no assets remain to support DIVARTY, aviation AAs, CPs, and CSS sites.
2. Decontaminating large CSS facilities can exceed the company's capabilities.
3. The chemical company is not manned to simultaneously deliver smoke and conduct decontamination; one platoon cannot conceal a decontamination site with organic smoke.
4. Smoke operations impose a significant need for fuel on top of an already substantial divisional requirement.
5. Smoke and decontamination assets are significantly reduced once they AASLT forward because of the inability to resupply water and fog oil.
Air assault MPs operate much the same as those in other divisions, albeit over an extended area. The company includes the division provost marshal (PM) section, the company headquarters, and four platoons. At threat level 1, capabilities include--
- Battlefield circulation control operations to expedite movement of vehicular traffic and individuals.
- Area security operations employing mobile 3-man teams with crew-served and individual weapons capable of defending against dismounted infantry.
- Area reconnaissance in conjunction with mobile patrol operations in the division rear area.
- Manning one EPW and/or civilian internee (CI) collecting point within the division rear area.
- Temporarily detaining US military prisoners.
- Battlefield law and order operations to alleviate major problems endangering the successful accomplishment of the division's mission (for example, war crimes and criminal diversion of war materiel).
- Augmentation by the division band.
- Security operations for the division main CP and all-source production section (ASPS) and other missions, as required.
- Enemy prisoner of war operations.
- Extensive area security operations within the division area.
- Assisting the host nation (HN) in joint law enforcement operations within the division.
- Providing support during division river crossing operations and passage of lines.
- Providing support in convoy security.
The MP teams are capable of responding to and disrupting or defeating nonmechanized incursions during daylight hours involving threat levels I and II. Night fighting capabilities are limited. However, when equipped with the required number of night vision systems, MP teams can effectively perform area security operations. They can delay level III threat forces for short periods of time, although at a heavy cost in personnel and equipment.
The MP company has three limitations:
1. If three platoons operate with the maneuver brigades, the remaining platoon will not be able to cover the division rear area without augmentation.
2. Each platoon has only six three-person MP teams with which to accomplish the mission.
3. More than 100 EPWs per day, or a corps' or JTF's inability to relocate EPWs from the division, would rapidly overtax the organic MP's capability to process prisoners.
The MP company depends on--
The AASLT division operates most effectively when augmented by key nondivisional units. These units fill gaps in the basic organization, reinforce capabilities already on hand, and ensure support for specific situations.
Assignment of a CSG should always occur when committing the AASLT division to reinforce and provide DS and GS to other nondivisional units. Nondivisional elements typically allocated to the AASLT division include--
Reinforcements for capabilities already on hand include--
Support for certain situations includes--
Assignment of a medical group should be considered when committing an AASLT division separate from a normal corps support base, particularly in early entry and/or split-base operations. The medical group will provide the full range of CHS necessary for the sustainment of the division.
Corps medical elements typically allocated to the AASLT division and supporting corps nondivisional units include--
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