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Preparation for Combat

Section I


2-1. General.

The AATFC must prepare for air assault operations by following troop leading procedures and organizing for a specific mission. This chapter discusses procedures and organization, providing a basis for detailed discussion of air assault operations in later chapters.

2-2. Procedures.

The following sections discuss combat preparation procedures:

  • Intelligence preparation of the battlefield.
  • The Threat.
  • Task organizing for air assault operations.
  • Command, control, and communications.


Section II


2-3. General.

Intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) is a systematic approach to analyzing the enemy, weather, and terrain in a specific geographic area. It integrates enemy doctrine with the weather and terrain as they relate to the mission and the specific battlefield environment. This is done to determine and evaluate enemy capabilities, vulnerabilities, and probable courses of action. The main thrust of IPB is to support commanders and their staffs in the decision-making process. It results in a graphic intelligence estimate that portrays probable enemy courses of action. Once hostilities begin, and current data becomes available, the IPB intelligence estimate becomes dynamic, changing with the immediate situation on the battlefield.

2-4. Intelligence preparation of the battlefield.

Intelligence preparation of the battlefield is a sequential process of intelligence analysis that orients on the assigned areas of operations and interest, and the enemy forces that are expected to be operating in those areas. The five logical steps include Threat evaluation, areas of operation and interest evaluation, terrain analysis, weather analysis, and Threat integration.

2-5. Graphics.

The use of graphics is key to IPB. Threat evaluation and Threat integration are accomplished through the analytical techniques known as templating. A template is a graphic illustration of enemy force structure, deployment, or capabilities normally drawn to scale. It provides a basis for command judgment and decisions affecting resource allocation. It is used as a comparative data base to integrate what is known about the enemy with a specific weather and terrain scenario. Templates enable planners to visualize enemy capabilities, predict likely courses of action before the battle, and confirm or refute them during combat. The four principal templates are developed during the IPB process:

a. Doctrine. Enemy doctrinal deployment for various types of operations without constraints imposed by weather and terrain. Composition, formations, frontages, depths, equipment numbers and ratios, and high value targets (HVT) are types of information displayed.

b. Situation. Depicts how the enemy might deploy and operate within the constraints imposed by the weather and terrain.

c. Event. Depicts locations where critical events and activities are expected to occur and where critical targets will appear.

d. Decision points. Depicts decision points keyed to significant events and activities; the intelligence estimate in graphic form.


2-6. Weather.

Planners must not underplay the effects of weather on air assault operations. It has a significant impact on both friendly and enemy air capabilities. The temperature humidity combination affects helicopter lift capability because of density altitude conditions. Weather factors also affect conditions of LZs, air avenues of approach, and Threat air defense weapons.


2-7. Intelligence preparation of the battlefield products.

These are routinely used by air assault task forces throughout the planning phases. Air assault operations are high-risk operations at best, and they should be planned with the best possible intelligence support available. Brigades and battalions do IPB on an informal basis as time and resources permit. Corps and division G28 must be prepared to provide detailed IPB support to any subordinate unit that has been assigned an air assault mission.


Section III


2-8. General.

The primary Threat tactics against air assault operations can be broken down into four major areas:

  • Air defense fires (including small arms).
  • Fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.
  • Electronic warfare.
  • Threat reaction to landing zone operations.

a. Vulnerability to air defense fires must be recognized and compensated for by effective suppressive measures and increased emphasis on accurate, timely, intelligence of the enemy.

b. The capabilities and limitations of Threat aircraft within the area of operation must be understood and all measures to minimize the risk of encounter must be taken.

c. Threat electronic warfare capabilities that would influence the air assault operation to include: jamming, direction finding and monitoring of communications, or jamming and direction finding involving friendly radars must be considered and appropriate electronic countermeasures employed.

d. Analysis of Threat capabilities to interdict friendly landing zones with ground forces, artillery, and close air support must be accomplished during the planning phase of the operation.

2-9. Intelligence preparation of the battlefield exploits weaknesses.

A major portion of the IPB is understanding the enemy. Knowledge of enemy doctrine, tactics, and equipment enables an air assault task force to find and exploit weak points.


Section IV


2-10. General.

As stated in Chapter 1, air assault operations are not conducted by pure units, but rather by tactically tailored AATFs (brigade or battalion level) designed to accomplish a specific mission. Organizing the task force for combat is a significant action. Predesignated and well-understood command and support relationships ensure that the force will fight as a cohesive, coordinated team. Normally:

a. The formation of an AATF will be directed by a headquarters no lower than division level (or that which can allocate dedicated aviation resources).

b. The directing or establishing headquarters allocates assets, defines authority and responsibility by designating command and support relationships, and forms the AATF early in the planning stage. Divisional aviation assets in other than the air assault division may be inadequate; therefore, additional aviation resources must be requested from corps units.

c. Battalion is the lowest level staffed with sufficient personnel to plan, coordinate, and control an air assault operation. When company-sized operations are conducted, the predominance of planning occurs at battalion or higher level.

d. An AATF will exist only until completion of a specified mission. After that, aviation and other elements are returned to the control of their parent unit(s).

2-11. Considerations for developing an air assault task force.

a. The availability of aviation assets is normally the major factor in determining AATF task organization.

b. The AATF must provide a mission-specific balance of mobility, combat power, and staying (sustaining) power.

c. The required combat power should be delivered to the objective area as soon as possible, consistent with aircraft and PZ capacities, to provide surprise and shock effect.

d. To perform its mission, an air assault task force must arrive intact at the LZ. The force must be tailored to provide en route security and protection from the PZ, throughout the entire flight route(s), and at the LZ.

e. In addition to the traditional command and support relations, one nonstandard command relationship, attached for movement, is used extensively during air assault operations. Under this relationship, some elements, (field artillery [FA], ADA, military intelligence [MI], engineers) may be attached to maneuver elements for movement only. This relationship facilitates command and control, movement planning, and local security of attached elements. Attachment would be effective from the planning phase until landing in the LZ, link up with parent unit, or as predesignated by standing operating procedure (SOP) or operation order (OPORD).

f. The complete AATF is usually formed during the planning phase.

g. The task organization must be determined and announced early in the planning process. It may be included in the warning order.

h. The AATF is normally organized with sufficient combat power to seize initial objectives and protect LZs, and with sufficient combat service support (CSS) and accompanying supplies to sustain a rapid tempo until follow-on or linkup forces arrive, or until the mission is completed.

i. An effective command and control system must be developed for all air assault operations. The AATFC must bring command and control considerations into play as he develops his task organization.

j . Unit tactical integrity must be maintained throughout an air assault. When planning loads, squads are normally loaded intact on the same helicopter. This ensures unit integrity upon landing.

k. Combat support elements are normally placed in direct support (DS) to the AATF in order to ensure close coordination and continuous, dedicated support throughout an operation.

2-12. The air assault task force.

a. The AATF is a tactically tailored combination of combat, combatsupport(CS), and CSS elements under the command and control of a single headquarters or command group.

(1) The AATF command group and staff. The AATFC is normally the infantry brigade or battalion commander whose own unit(s) forms the nucleus or predominance of forces in the AATF. He commands the air assault operation and is responsible for its overall planning and execution. He controls all units assigned, attached, or under operational control (OPCON) to the AATF, and establishes mission priorities for those units in DS or general support (GS) of the AATF.

(2) The air mission commander. The air mission commander (AMC) is designated by the supporting aviation brigade or battalion commander and is subordinate to the AATFC. He controls all Army aviation assets in support of the AATF, ensures that aviation operations are conducted according to the AATFC's directives, serves as the AATFC's advisor on aviation matters, and assists the AATFC with planning.

(3) Aviation liaison officer. An aviation liaison officer (LO) should be provided to the AATF from the supporting aviation unit and should be considered a special staff officer. His role is to advise the AATFC on all matters relating to Army aviation and to jointly develop, along with the AATF S3 Air, the detailed plans necessary to support the air assault operation. During the execution phase, he should be available to assist the AATFC or S3 Air in coordinating the employment of aviation assets.

b. The AATFC, the AMC, and their respective battle staffs must consider several air assault unique factors, as well as those of mission, enemy, terrain, troops and time available (METT-T), before deciding on the exact AATF task organization. They include both general and organization specific factors (paragraph 2-13).

c. Figure 2-1 depicts a typical AATF organization built around an air assault infantry battalion nucleus.


Figure 2-1. Typical AATF organization.

2-l3. Organization considerations.

Typical roles, missions, and organization-specific considerations are:

a. Infantry. Infantry elements normally form the nucleus of the AATF. Although nonmechanized infantry is better suited for air assault operations, there will be situations where mechanized units accomplish their mission by capitalizing oil the helicopter's mobility.

(1) The disposition of the unit's vehicles is a primary point of consideration. When mechanized infantry units participate in air assault operations, the armored vehicles can be:

(a) Attached for movement to an assaulting ground element (linkup force).

(b) Left in an assembly area until the assaulting element returns.

(c) Repositioned to provide supporting fires for adjacent units or the air assaulting force.

(2) Other considerations include the following:

(a) Ground mobility is limited once the unit is inserted unless vehicles are provided.

(b) Communication range is limited to that of portable radios.

(c) Range of the scout platoon is limited unless its vehicles are lifted into the objective area.

(d) Antiarmor capability is reduced.

(e) Combat support and combat service support will be austere.

(f) Air lines of communication must be planned for sustainment.

b. Assault (lift) helicopters.

(1) Organization. The AATF would normally be one or more assault helicopter platoons or companies (depending on the size of the operation) placed under OPCON or in DS to the AATF for the duration of the operation.

(2) Role. The assault helicopters operate under the control of the AMC who will direct actions based on the AATFC's order.

(3) Typical missions. These include-.

(a) Tactical mobility for troops, equipment, and weapon systems by internal and external load.

(b) Aerial resupply by internal and external load.

(c) Backup medical evacuation (medevac).

c. Attack helicopters.

(1) Organization. Attack helicopter companies or an entire battalion may operate under OPCON to the AATF.

(2) Role. Attack helicopter units are normally employed as air maneuver elements in the antiarmor role; however, during air assault operations, they additionally support the lift and assault force by direct and indirect fires in the absence of normal artillery and other fires.

(3) Typical missions. These include:

(a) Protect (escort) lift helicopters from the PZ to LZ as dictated by the enemy.

(b) Suppress enemy ADA and other weapons en route to and during insertions and/or extractions.

(c) Provide preparatory and/or suppressive fires in the vicinity of LZS or objectives in the absence of conventional artillery.

(d) Overwatch the LZ and objective areas to neutralize enemy resistance and to block enemy attempts to reinforce the objective area.

(e) Serve as AATF reserve when facing a motorized or armored enemy.

(f) Provide reconnaissance and security in the absence of mobile ground scouts or air reconnaissance units.

d. Air reconnaissance.

(1) Organization. The AATF would normally receive OPCON of an air reconnaissance team or troop.

(2) Role. Air reconnaissance elements provide reconnaissance and limited security for the AATF during all phases of the operation and fill the void created by the absence of mobile infantry scouts.

(3) Typical missions. These include:

(a) Reconnaissance of PZs, flight routes, LZs, and objectives.

(b) Screening forward (or all-round) of ground forces to provide limited security and early warning.

(c) Providing downed aircraft security.

e. Assault support (medium) helicopters.

(1) Organization. The AATF may be supported by medium helicopter platoons (or company[s]) placed under OPCON or in DS.

(2) Role. Medium helicopters normally are employed in follow-on echelons to build combat power and to resupply the AATF.

(3) Typical missions. These include moving:

(a) Artillery (up to M198 in size and weight) and ammunition.

(b) Engineer equipment and barrier materials.

(c) Military intelligence assets.

(d) All classes of supply.

(e) Bridging assets.

(f) Nuclear, biological, and chemical defense and decontamination equipment.

(g) Personnel from secure PZ to secure LZ.

f. Artillery fire support.

(1) Organization. Field artillery batteries (or battalions) that can be moved by cargo helicopter (CH-47), or that can fire into the air assault objective area, are normally attached to or placed in DS of the AATF.

(2) Role. Field artillery units in air assault operations must be ready to move quickly and frequently to prepared LZs and objectives and to suppress enemy artillery and air defense fires.

(3) Typical missions. Air assault support missions expected from FA units include:

(a) Suppression of enemy air defense along flight routes and in the vicinity of LZs.

(b) Landing zone preparation.

(c) Conducting artillery raids.

(d) Delivering the field artillery's family of scatterable mines (FASCAM).

g. Engineers.

(1) Organization. An engineer platoon would normally be placed in DS of the AATF. In many situations, engineers would be attached to infantry units for movement but would revert to DS when communications with their parent headquarters is reestablished.

(2) Role. Engineers in the air assault role must be organized to move with infantry and to provide mobility, countermobility, and survivability construction using light equipment (chain saws, handtools), demolitions, natural resources, and ingenuity. Light engineer equipment, such as small earth movers or backhoes, may be moved by medium lift helicopters.

(3) Typical missions. These include:

(a) Construct and improve PZs and LZs.

(b) Construct expedient countermobility obstacles using natural materials and demolitions.

(c) Help the infantry dig in.

(d) Emplace point minefields.

(e) Fight as infantry.

(f) Breach obstacles.

h. Air defense.

(1) Organization. The AATF normally receives, as DS (or attached), a tactically tailored ADA team or platoon equipped with light, air transportable short-range air defense (SHORAD) systems. Air defense artillery assets must be tailored to place a high reliance on man-portable air defense (MANPAD) systems such as the Stinger missile system and towed Vulcans (if available). Normally, Stinger teams are attached to infantry units for movement.

(2) Role. In air assault operations, SHORAD must fly with the lead elements in order to be in place to protect follow-on echelons in the objective area. Stinger teams are best suited for this role.

(3) Typical missions. These include:

(a) Provide point defense of high value locations including PZs, LZS, objective areas, helicopter rearm-refuel points, and laager sites.

(b) Provide direct fires for ground defense (Vulcans).

i. Electronic warfare.

(1) Organization. A tactically tailored MI platoon would normally be in DS to the AATF, if the enemy dictates. The platoon must be equipped with (mobile) collecting, jamming, and radar hardware that can be moved by available helicopters.

(2) Role. In cases where electronic warfare (EW) capability is needed, but cannot be supported by mobile equipment, the AATFC should request Quickfix, Guardrail, or other assets from higher headquarters.

(3) Typical missions. These include:

(a) Disruption of enemy command, control, communication (C3).

(b) Degrading enemy fire support and air defense radio nets.

(c) Ground surveillance (radar).

(d) Collection of electronic intelligence.

j. Reserves. Because of their superior mobility, an air assault task force requires smaller reserves than do other forces. During air assault operations, each subordinate maneuver unit may be given an on-order mission to reinforce or assume another unit's mission, or to revert to the task force reserve.

k. Combat service support elements. The AATF may be supported by a dedicated, tactically tailored, forward service support element (FSSE) that provides mission specific support to the task force throughout the air assault operation.


Section V


2-14. General.

a. Command and control is the process of directing and controlling the activities of military forces in order to attain an objective. An air assault C2 system includes the procedures, facilities, equipment, and personnel to gather information, make plans, communicate changes, and control all ground and air elements in pursuit of the AATF objective.

b. Since the battlefield over which the AATF operates may be extended well beyond the norm, special considerations must be given to the command and control of air assault operations. An AATF C2 system must communicate orders, coordinate support, and provide direction to the AATF in spite of great distances, enemy interference, and the potential loss of key facilities and individuals. Above all, this system must function quickly and effectively, thus allowing the AATFC to receive and process information and to make decisions faster than the enemy.

2-15. Command and control planning.

The AATFC must address C2 requirements early in the planning phase of any operation. He must establish an effective C2 system which allows him to control diverse, widely dispersed air and ground elements between the initial PZ and the final objective. The C2 system may be subjected to degraded communications due to the extended distances over which the AATF must operate and/or enemy jamming. Although an effective C2 system must include provisions for two-way radio communications, the AATFC must develop a plan and a system which allows execution despite degraded radio communications. The key to successful air assault C2 lies in precise, centralized planning and aggressive, decentralized execution. The AATFC ensures successful air assault C2 by:

a. Effective Task Organizing. All assets must be tailored into discrete, task-organized elements each with two-way radio communications, unity of command, clearly defined missions and objectives, and provisions for maintaining unit integrity throughout the operation. An effective task organization, with each subelement having a clearly defined mission, allows the AATFC the flexibility to decentralize execution and ensure mission success despite degraded communications, the fog of battle, or unexpected enemy reaction.

b. Precise planning. Air assault operations must be precisely planned and well-briefed before execution so that each subordinate leader knows exactly what is expected of him, knows the commander's intent, and knows he can execute his mission despite the loss of radio communications. Contingencies or alternatives must be built into each plan to allow for continuation of the mission in a fluid environment. Events must be planned to occur based on time (time driven) or the execution of a previous event (event driven) so that actions will occur at the specified time or in the specified sequence despite degraded communications. For example:

(1) A time-driven event might be the firing of a landing zone FA preparation precisely from H-5 minutes to H-1 minute. If previously planned, this can be executed with degraded communications.

(2) An event-driven action might be inserting Company B into the alternate LZ if Company A (the lead company) makes enemy contact on the primary LZ. If previously planned, this event will occur properly without the need for lengthy radio communications by the AATFC.

c. Decentralize control. Although it is centrally planned, air assault execution is decentralized. Subordinate commanders should be given the maximum possible freedom of action (consistent with safety and mission accomplishment considerations) to ensure mission accomplishment.

d. Establish air assault radio nets. Radio nets to facilitate ground-to-ground, air-to-air, and ground-to-air communications are established to provide for the timely flow of information and redundancy in capability.

2-l6. Roles of key personnel and critical modes.

Key players and communications modes in air assault C2 are:

a. Air assault task force commander. The AATFC is normally an infantry brigade or battalion commander who is the overall AATF commander. His presence and role ensures a unity of command throughout the operation. As in any operation, he must move where he can see the battlefield and control the operation. In situations where the enemy allows, he would be airborne during the movement and insertion phases. At other times, he fights the battle from a tactical command post deployed well forward.

b. Air assault task force S3. The AATF S3 assists the AATFC in C2. He normally mans the AATF tactical command post (CP) when the AATFC is airborne.

c. Air mission commander. The AMC is an aviation unit commander or his designated representative. He is responsible for receiving and executing the AATFC's guidance and directives and for controlling all aviation elements for the AATFC. His presence ensures unity of effort for all supporting aviation assets. The AMC employs attack helicopters and artillery along the flight route and "fights the battle" from PZ to LZ while keeping the AATFC informed.

d. Aviation liaison officer. Although the LO's most critical role is fulfilled during the planning phase, he can be a valuable team member in C2 if he has access to adequate radio equipment. When he is radio equipped, the AATFC may employ the aviation LO at a critical point to assist in coordinating the execution of the operation.

e. Lift flight lead. He leads the lift aircraft along the route(s) of flight, adjusting airspeed as necessary to meet preplanned artillery SEAD and preparatory fire schedules.

f Air reconnaissance and attack helicopter battle team captains. These are air reconnaissance or attack helicopter platoon leaders or troop (company) commanders who are responsible for the C2 of their respective elements. They normally respond to the AMC during the movement phase and to the AATFC as subordinate maneuver unit commanders after completion of the air assault insertion.

g. Pickup zone control officer. A pickup zone control officer (PZCO) is designated for each pickup zone to be used. He organizes, controls, and coordinates operations in the PZ and "pushes" elements out. He operates on the combat aviation net (CAN) and is prepared to assist in executing needed changes. He is the key individual during night operations or when multiple subordinate elements are being lifted from the same PZ.

h. Subordinate unit commanders. Subordinate unit commanders normally function as they would in any other infantry task force. Each must be prepared, however, to receive other elements for movement.

i. Tactical command post. The tactical command post (TAC CP) provides C2 for the execution of air assault operations. It must be mobile and well forward. It is normally air assaulted into the objective area soon after the initial echelon, the enemy situation permitting. A C2 helicopter may serve as a TAC CP if enemy air defense systems allow.

j. Main command post or tactical operations center. The main CP or tactical operations center (TO C) provides control of combat operations when the TAC CP is not deployed, and provides planning for future operations and coordination for support. Functions of the main CP are:

(1) Monitors current operations and maintains current enemy and friendly situations.

(2) Gathers and disseminates intelligence.

(3) Keeps higher and adjacent organizations informed of the friendly situation; submits recurring reports.

(4) Provides liaison to higher and adjacent organizations.

(5) Coordinates combat support, close air support (CAS), aviation (AVN), engineer (EN), ADA, and advises the commander on the use of combat support for current and future operations.

(6) Monitors airspace management.

(7) Continues planning for future operations; oversees the preparation of all contingency plans.

(8) Issues combat orders and warning orders as necessary.

k. Rear command post. The rear CP is normally located in the field trains, and coordinates all logistical and personnel operations and requirements. The administration logistics center is the nerve center of the rear CP and coordinates CSS for the AATF.

2-7. Communications.

a. Command and control within the AATF are executed with a variety of communications means to span the full spectrum of air assault operations. To support an AATF over a widely dispersed area, emphasis is placed on compact, lightweight, air transportable, and long-range equipment, A heavy reliance is placed on single channel communications such as very high frequency (VHF)/frequency modulation (FM), high frequency (HF)/single side band (SSB), and tactical satellite communications (TACSATCOM).

b. Real time C2 capabilities will be constrained by the availability of portable, reliable, and secure communications. An AATF must depend largely upon a single channel radio because of its flexibility, range, and speed of set up.

c. Subordinate elements in the AATF may range beyond multichannel capabilities and radio transmissions, and transmissions may be unintelligible due to enemy electronic countermeasures (ECM). As a result, subordinate commanders of the AATF will be required to make decisions sometimes without being in contact with the AATFC.

d. As the AATF fights the battle and distances become extended, communications for C2 become less sophisticated. The AATF must make extensive use of airborne or unattended FM retransmission, amplitude modulation (AM) capabilities, and TACSTATCOM. Ground or air messengers should be used when possible.

2-18. Radio nets.

A dynamic mix of air-to-air, air-to-ground, and ground-to-ground radio nets is used to provide the necessary responsiveness and flexibility for air assault C2. Radio nets commonly employed during air assault operations are:

a. Air assault task force command net. This is an FM command net (ground-to-ground) for an operation. It is normally secure and used by the AATFC to communicate with his subordinate maneuver commanders.

b. Combat aviation net. This is an FM radio net dedicated to air-to-ground coordination during air assault operations. All aviation elements monitor this net as do the remainder of the AATF elements before and during air movements. Although the CAN may serve as an alternate task force (TF) command net, it must be dedicated primarily to communications between aircraft and the lifted unit. Its use for that purpose ensures that mission and situation changes can be quickly passed to supporting aircraft and that the AATF command net remains clear for use by the AATFC and his subordinate commanders.

c. Air battle net (ABN). This is an ultra high frequency (UHF) air-to-air command net dedicated to communications between the AMC and all aviation element leaders. All aviation elements monitor this net and receive instructions from the AMC or the AATFC when he is airborne. This net is normally operated on the lift unit's UHF command frequency if a dedicated ABN is not listed in the communications-electronics operation instructions (CEOI).

d. Fire support net. This is an FM net operated by the AATF fire support coordinator (FSCOORD). All aviation elements must have access to this net to facilitate calls for fire during movements, insertions, and extractions. An artillery quick-fire net would normally be used when a supporting battery is dedicated to an operation.

e. Aviation internal net. These are VHF nets operated by each aviation element leader for his own internal use. Use of VHF radios provide each element leader with a dedicated frequency with which to direct and control individual aircraft, teams, or platoons, and to communicate with air traffic control (ATC) authorities. Figure 2-2 depicts the inter-relationships of these radio nets.

Figure 2-2. Air Assault radio nets.


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