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Combat Operations

Section I


4-1. General.

The air assault attack is the basic type of offensive operation conducted by an AATF. It is the integration of the combat, CS, and CSS elements in the movement into or out of an objective area. Generally, the term "insertion" applies when discussing the air assault into the objective area and the term "extraction" applies when discussing the air assault from the objective area. While these terms are fundamental to all air assault operations, they take on added importance in the attack.

4-2. Attack.

The opportunity to attack may arise during the course of battle, or it may be created by skillful, tactical leadership. Whatever the source, the attack is fast, violent, resolute, shrewd, and coordinated. There are two general types of attack: hasty and deliberate. The major difference between the two is time and enemy information available. The AATF may conduct an attack in conjunction with other forces. The type of action conducted by the larger force usually dictates the type of attack employed by the air assault force.

4-3. Hasty attack.

a. Situations in which an AATF might be called on to execute a hasty attack in support of a larger force are:

(1) During movement to contact by the larger force when unexpected contact is made. The AATF is committed to exploit a tactical advantage or to further develop the tactical situation.

(2) When part of the larger force's deliberate attack plan is modified while the operation is under way. The AATF is committed to reinforce in a weakened area or to exploit a tactical advantage.

(3) At the conclusion of an attack when a further advance is ordered. The AATF is committed to exploit the attack's success and to maintain momentum.

(4) An attack from a defense in which the commander sees an opportunity for offensive action and seizes the initiative.

b. When a hasty attack is considered under any of these circumstances, tentative PZs, LZs, and flight routes throughout the higher unit's zone of action are identified. This permits rapid commitment of the AATF anywhere in the sector. Because the hasty attack is conducted on short notice, there is little time to plan and orders are brief. The AATFC must rely on previous training and SOPs to cover these situations.

c. When the AATF is committed, the AATFC initiates several actions simultaneously. He directs suppressive fires to neutralize the enemy's ability to counter the air assault operation, and he concentrates sufficient combat power to overwhelm the enemy at selected points. While the AATF is en route, support fires suppress or destroy known or suspected enemy positions with priority of fires to the suppression of enemy air defense.

d. As the attack starts, attack helicopter units overmatch and react as necessary while the AATFC and FSO direct FA, mortar, CAS, and other supporting fires. FA and mortars destroy, neutralize, or suppress enemy indirect fire weapons as soon as they are located. Smoke may be used to screen aircraft movement from observation. However, the AATFC is careful that smoke does not obscure the LZ and hinder the landing operation. Airspace coordination must be effected early.

4-4. Deliberate attack.

a. The AATF, as part of a larger force operation, may conduct a deliberate attack. The AATF is provided sufficient time to develop a detailed, coordinated plan; receive additional assets; change task organization as necessary; and gather detailed intelligence. Detailed information about the terrain is collected so that best PZs, LZs, and flight routes can be selected. Air assault objectives are normally in the enemy's rear area, or the attack is from the flank or rear. This will normally preclude or limit the opportunity for leaders to see the terrain and force planners to rely on maps and aerial photographs.

b. When the larger force concentrates its combat power on a narrow front to break through enemy defenses, the AATF may bypass main defenses to destroy artillery positions, command posts, logistics and communications facilities, and/or to secure key terrain in the enemy's rear (Figure 4-1).

Figure 4-1. Landing away from the objective.

c. An attack against a heavier or well-prepared enemy force, particularly on the mechanized and/or armor battlefield, may subject the AATF to devastating firepower. For this reason, the AATFC may land the AATF away from the objective and conduct a dismounted attack in conjunction with friendly mechanized and/or armor forces. The AATFC must also consider that a highly mobile enemy force could encircle the AATF before it moves from an LZ. Consequently, he selects LZs in armor-restrictive terrain and employs antitank weapons and attack helicopter units against likely armor approaches. When used with accurate intelligence, these actions provide time to organize after landing and to attack the objectives.

4-5. Exploitation.

Exploitation is an operation undertaken to follow up success in the attack. Attacks are conducted with two overriding requirements: speed and violence. The attackers bypass pockets of resistance to concentrate on the destruction of the more vulnerable headquarters, combat support, and combat service support units. They disrupt the enemy's command and control; his flow of fuel, ammunition, repair parts; and his air defenses and artillery. This weakens and/or destroys the enemy. Enemy air defenses are avoided or suppressed for the AATF to exploit the situation.

4-6. Pursuit.

a. Pursuitisanoffensiveactionagainstretreatingenemy.Itspurposeistoenvelop the retreating force and destroy it by coordinated fire and maneuver. An AATF, operating as part of the pursuit force, can expect to be ordered to bypass resistance of any kind and move relentlessly to deep objectives that serve as checkpoints for the retreating enemy. The helicopter provides the AATF with the high degree of mobility required to conduct pursuit operations.

b. Air Force tactical aircraft, attack helicopters, and air assault forces can repeatedly attack the flanks of the withdrawing enemy columns, slowing them and aiding in their destruction. Blocking positions can be established on withdrawal routes to trap enemy forces between the encircling force and the direct-pressure force. Field artillery and forward arming and refueling points should be lifted into the encircling force areas as soon as possible.

4-7. Secure and defend.

a. This type of air assault operation is two-phased and requires detailed planning like a deliberate attack. The secure-and-defend mission is conducted when an objective, such as a vital terrain feature, must be seized and retained. The limited staying power of the AATF dictates early linkup with ground units, reinforcement by other units, or extraction from the enemy area.

b. The first phase is an attack to secure terrain to be controlled by the AATF in the initial stages of the assault. This should be a single-lift insertion of sufficient combat power to defeat enemy forces on the objective.

c. The second phase of the operation is the defense of the objective. The AATF normally establishes an airhead. This is a perimeter defense that controls all terrain essential to the defense of the objective. The airhead is large enough to provide operating space for combat, CS, and CSS units. It should include adequate LZs for simultaneous combat assaults using all airlift assets and provide space for landing artillery, follow-on forces, and supplies. The airhead is small enough for a battalion to defend yet large enough to permit defense-in-depth and maneuver of reserves to counter enemy attacks. As a rule, the area an infantry battalion can defend is 3 to 5 kilometers in diameter. Size is dictated by mission, enemy strength and disposition, terrain, and AATF combat power.

d. Boundaries delineate responsibilities of AATF subordinate elements. The airhead is often divided into company-size objectives for the air assault. Each company clears, secures and defends an assigned area of the airhead (which seldom has a rear area). The size sector assigned each company should be within its capability to seize and defend, based on an analysis of METT-T. Boundaries minimize adjustments during the transition from assault to defense. They should also prevent one unit from defending in widely divergent directions. A company facing a dangerous avenue of approach, for example, is assigned a smaller sector than a company facing a less dangerous avenue. Defensive responsibility for an avenue of approach is not divided. The unit assigned the approach also covers any dominating terrain.

e. A terrain feature to be secured in the assault, and vital to AATF mission accomplishment, is designated an assault objective. The assault objective should include terrain that dominates all high-speed approaches into the airhead area. Assault objectives are assigned priorities. Those specified by higher headquarters are given first priority. Others are ranked according to the threat they would pose if controlled by the enemy. A company's sector should include at least one LZ for the assault and to aid in resupply and evacuation.

4-8. Reconnaissance in force.

a. A reconnaissance in force is conducted to determine or test the enemy's disposition and strength or to develop intelligence. It is conducted when the enemy situation is vague. This type of operation is conducted by forces strong enough to accept engagements with the enemy in order to accomplish their mission. The information obtained (for example, major weaknesses in enemy positions), if promptly exploited, may provide a significant tactical advantage. The reconnaissance in force is planned and conducted with elements specifically prepared to find the enemy and develop the situation. Once the units are committed, they are on a "be prepared to fight" status.

b. The reconnaissance in force is an ideal mission for the AATF in an insurgent environment in order to keep constant pressure on a guerrilla force. The AATF is suited for reconnaissance-in-force operations against conventional light infantry forces. However, it is not suited for such operations in a strong armor threat area due to the likelihood of ground contact with an enemy force that has superior firepower, mobility, and protection.

c. The reconnaissance in force accepts risk to gain intelligence information rapidly and in more detail than other reconnaissance methods. The commander assigning an AATF this mission must determine the following:

(1) Isthedesiredinformationimportantenoughtojustifytheriskstopersonnel and equipment?

(2) Can other intelligence methods obtain the same information in sufficient time with less risk?

(3) Will the reconnaissance in force compromise future plans?

(4) Can the operation succeed?

d. The reconnaissance in force, however, differs from the normal attack that is conducted to destroy enemy forces or secure terrain. The reconnaissance in force locates the enemy and presses him into reacting. When the force discovers a weak point, the AATF exploits it quickly. The AATFC exercises caution, however, since the enemy response may be too strong for the AATF. Thus, the commander also plans withdrawal to avoid destruction of the AATF.

e. When the commander wants information about a particular area, the reconnaissance in force is planned and executed as an attack against a specific objective. The objective is of such importance that, when threatened, the enemy will react. For example: a successful reconnaissance in force may cause commitment of enemy reserves, redeployment of enemy fire support means, or adjustment of enemy second-echelon forces. Taking a terrain objective is not in itself the purpose of the operation. Rather, the operation seeks to obtain specific information about the enemy by seizing a terrain objective. The objective location depends on the information desired. The AATF's combat power must be sufficient to force enemy reaction. This should disclose positions, strength, planned fires, and planned use of reserves. It may also disrupt the enemy's planned operations and take the initiative from him. An AATFC can deploy all three companies against specific objectives; or the commander may commit one or two companies and retain the third to respond to tactical situations as they develop. When the enemy reacts to one unit, the units not in contact are shifted to exploit revealed enemy weaknesses or help extract a unit under pressure.

4-9. Raid.

a. Air assault raid. This is a swift penetration of hostile territory that may be conducted to destroy installations, confuse the enemy, or gather information. It ends with a planned withdrawal. Because a raid is conducted behind enemy lines, it requires exact planning to ensure a high probability of success. The selection of LZs, PZs, and flight routes (as in the deliberate attack) is based on the results of detailed planning and ample intelligence. Since the raiding force attempts to achieve surprise, the decision to land on the objective takes on added significance (Figure 4-2).

Figure 4-2. Operation of a raid.

(1) The AATF may land on or near the objective when the following applies:

(a) There is a suitable LZ.

(b) The enemy does not have a highly mobile reaction force nearby to attack the AATF immediately after it lands.

(c) The objective is not accessible overland.

(d) The AATFC determines that overland movement would expose his forces to enemy fire and possibly disrupt the mission.

(e) Surprise is important.

(f) When there are no armor or mechanized units and/or vehicles on the objective.

(g) When there are no air defense weapons on the objective.

(h) When the AATF can land overwhelming combat power quickly on the objective.

(2) The AATF should land some distance from the objective when these considerations apply:

(a) The AATFC decides to assemble and reorganize before conducting the assault.

(b) The only suitable LZs are away from the objective.

(c) There is a highly mobile enemy force on the objective that could disrupt the landing.

(d) Surprise is not imperative.

(e) Local air defense is too strong.

b. Conduct a raid. The AATFC task organizes his force to accomplish four essential tasks:

(1) Command and control.

(2) Security.

(3) Support.

(4) Assault.

(a) Command and control. The AATFC commands and controls from a location that offers the best vantage points; however, during air movement, the AATFC normally uses a command and control helicopter. After units are on the ground, he may join one of the ground units or he may continue to control from the air.

(b) Security. The element given the security mission blocks avenues of approach into the objective and provides suppressive fires for withdrawal after the mission is complete.

(c) Support. The element providing assault support lays down a heavy volume of suppressive fire to neutralize the objective and destroy the enemy that is occupying it.

(d) Assault. The element conducting the assault secures the objective and provides security for specialty teams (for example, demolitions).

c. Rehearsal. Rehearsals are critical to success. The operation should be rehearsed several times by all elements participating in the raid. If it is a night raid, rehearsals are conducted during daylight and darkness.

d. Withdrawal.

(1) A raid differs from other attacks in that it includes a withdrawal plan. The plan contains provisions for withdrawal by air as well as on foot (in case aircraft cannot extract the force). Withdrawal on foot may require the entire force to move as a unit, or the force may have to break down into small elements to evade enemy contact and exfiltrate the area.

(2) A withdrawal by air involves movement into, and defense of, the PZ (Figure 4-3). If the withdrawal is for the purpose of committing the force to another combat mission, then an additional ground tactical plan is prepared for that phase of operation. Either plan is as detailed as time permits and includes:

(a) Pickup zone designation.

(b) Fire support plan for movement to secure the PZ and to cover the withdrawal.

(c) Schedule of unit movement to the PZ.

(d) Loading priorities.

(e) Designation of, and instructions for, the PZ control group.

(f) Landing zone designation following withdrawal.

Figure 4-3. Example of a withdrawal by air.

e. Unit sequence. The sequence of unit withdrawal varies according to the tactical situation and the subsequent mission of the AATF. Administrative, combat service support personnel, and heavy equipment are withdrawn first (before tactical units). The commander may withdraw them to a secured (intermediate) area and then move them to another (combat) area after it is secured. Unit redeployment is determined by combat and security requirements in the new area.

f. Pickup zone designation.

(1) Pickup zones. They are designated by the headquarters controlling the withdrawal. PZs are as close to unit positions as the terrain and enemy situation permit. To achieve speed in landing, loading, and lift-off, multiple PZs may be used (consistent with available security forces).

(2) Pickup zone control officer. A PZCO is designated for each unit's PZ. He is responsible for calling units and guiding them from their assembly areas to the PZs to expedite loading. The senior PZCO coordinates all PZ operations when using multiple PZs (and PZCOS). He maintains contact with the AMC to ensure coordinated arrival of troops and aircraft.

(3) Security.

(a) Security elements are positioned to cover the main body as it assembles, moves to the PZ, and withdraws. Security may be composed of small detachments from each subordinate unit, or it may be one of the subordinate units. The latter is usually best. Unit integrity aids control and gives more effective reaction in case of attack. Security elements protect the PZ at a time ordered by the unit commander conducting the withdrawal.

(b) Each aircraft withdrawing the security force lands as close as possible to its individual load. During this short interval, attack helicopter teams overmatching the withdrawal provide security. Panels, or other covert markers, identify each loading site (when the withdrawal is conducted during limited visibility, chemical lights or directional beacons are used).

(c) The last security element to withdraw achieves some protection by detonating Claymore mines and firing automatic weapons just before loading. The loading and lift-off are executed quickly. Attack helicopter teams overmatch the lift-off.

(4) Reserve. A reserve, when designated, may remain airborne near the PZ or on standby in another area. This gives the commander a reaction force that can be employed as required to support withdrawal of the security force.

(5) Fire support. During withdrawal, fire support is planned and executed to protect security elements as combat power on the PZ diminishes.


Section II


4-10. General.

Defense is a coordinated effort by a force to defeat an attacker and prevent him from achieving his objectives (FM 100-5). Army doctrine does not describe the form of defense to be used in battle because there is literally an infinite number of defensive techniques that a commander can select from in developing a defense. The commander, by using the METT-T analysis, can determine the best technique for a specific tactical situation.

4-11. Defensive operations against an infantry-heavy threat.

a. Air assault task force defending. The AATF defends against an infantry-heavy Threat by employing its airmobility to achieve a maneuver advantage over the enemy. This advantage allows it to perform operations in the covering force area (CFA), main battle area (MBA), and rear area.

b. Covering force area. The AATF can conduct covering force operations for a larger force. Normally, the covering force consists of air reconnaissance, infantry, artillery, engineer, and attack helicopter units. Infantry and artillery assigned to the covering force must be provided enough helicopters to move the entire unit. The covering force is generally organized based on the:

(1) Number of enemy avenues of approach into the CFA.

(2) Size and type of enemy forces.

The covering force accomplishes its mission by placing the majority of its combat units on the most dangerous avenues of approach into the CFA. Air reconnaissance deploys to the front and provides early warning of the direction, speed, and composition of enemy forces. Enemy units are taken under fire as soon as they are within range of weapons. As the enemy attempts to close with ground units of the covering force, attack helicopters, artillery, and close air support provide firepower to enable ground units to displace by air to successive positions. Protection of air assault infantry and antitank systems is achieved by superior mobility. Covering force units attrite the enemy, deceive him as to the location of the MBA, slow his speed of advance, cause him to mass, and may cause him to divulge his intentions. Units are assigned subsequent missions in the MBA when the covering force mission has been accomplished.

c. Main battle area. The mobility advantage which the AATF has over enemy infantry-heavy units allows it to defend in greater depth. The AATF defends by orienting on the destruction of advancing enemy forces and fights a series of battles in depth, attacking the enemy from the front, flanks, and rear while using minimal forces to maintain surveillance over the remainder of the assigned sector. Battle positions are selected and prepared throughout the MBA along likely avenues of approach. Primary and alternate LZs and PZs are selected for each battle position. When enemy fires preclude extraction of the AATF from battle positions, covered and concealed routes are selected for foot movement to alternate PZs. Only when absolutely necessary should an AATF be directed to occupy or retain terrain. If there is a situation in which the retention of terrain is essential to the defense of the entire sector, its retention is specified.

4-12. Defensive operations against an armor-heavy threat.

a. Air assault task force defending. An AATF is not well-suited to perform a defensive operation against mounted forces on terrain favorable to mounted operations. However, the AATF can effectively operate in the restrictive terrain of built-up areas or mountains or defend chokepoints,

b. Types of operations. The AATF can conduct the following operations on the armored and mechanized battlefield in support of larger defensive operations:

(1) Main battle area operations in restrictive terrain.

(2) Economy of force or reserve.

(3) Rear operations.

(4) Flank security operations.

(5) Limited-objective counterattack operations or raids.

(6) Delay and withdrawal operations.

(7) Seizure of FLOT objectives for linkup operations.

c. Covering force area. Attack helicopter and air reconnaissance units are the elements best suited for employment in covering force operations when employed with armored and mechanized units.

d. Main battle area. The AATF is not well-suited to defend against armored and mechanized forces. If it is used to defend against such forces, it should be employed in restrictive terrain not favorable to employment of massed armor. The AATF can be employed in built-up areas, mountainous terrain, and heavily forested areas. Attack helicopters can be employed as a mobile, tank-killing reserve.

4-13. Economy of force.

Defense in an economy-of-force role can be accomplished by displacing units of the AATF in depth on the avenue of approach throughout the sector. The air reconnaissance elements can screen areas where enemy attack is possible but unlikely. Combat units are repositioned to counter the major enemy thrust. After engaging the enemy, and before the enemy closes on battle positions, units are picked up from designated PZs and organized in depth. The AATF essentially conducts a delay. Field artillery is repositioned as necessary to halt the enemy advance. Attack helicopter elements should be placed under the operational control of the AATFC. Elements of the AATF held in reserve are rapidly transported by helicopter into areas under enemy pressure.

4-14. Delay.

a. The key to success in the delay is the commander's ability to array forces in depth before the initiation of the delay. Decisive engagement is accepted only to the degree and extent necessary to accomplish the delay mission. Contingency plans for stay-behind operations should be developed. The AATFC should continually look for and seize the opportunity to launch small-scale offensive air assault and attack helicopter raids into the enemy flanks and rear areas. A delay may be conducted to:

(1) Gain time so that other forces can deploy.

(2) Serve as an economy-of-force measure to allow concentration of friendly forces in other areas.

(3) Determine enemy composition, strength, intentions, and capabilities.

(4) Channel the enemy into selected areas and then destroy him.

b. The AATF is seldom given a "timed-delay" mission. This type of mission would require an AATF to delay the enemy for a specified time and would restrict its mobility and subject it to unacceptable losses.

c. The delay-in-sector mission is more appropriate. The TF disengages by helicopter before it is decisively engaged. Against armor forces, the AATF should displace at distances of no less than 1,500 meters and rely on attack helicopters to delay the armor while friendly infantry is extracted.


Section III


4-15. General.

This section discusses eight types of operations. Any one may be applicable in an air assault mission.

4-16. Screening.

a. An AATF screening force provides early warning over an extended frontage. Screening missions are assigned to:

(1) Provide timely warning of enemy approach.

(2) Maintain visual contact and report on movement.

(3) Destroy or repel small enemy forces by employing organic and/or supporting fires.

(4) Impede the advance of larger forces and destroy the enemy by employing long-range organic fires.

b. A screening mission employs a series of observation posts (OP) overlooking enemy avenues of approach and the areas between them. Patrols cover dead space between OPs and cover other areas during limited visibility. When contact is established, the screening force withdraws on order, maintaining visual and/or electronic contact, and reports enemy movements. As in the delay, timely displacement is critical to AATF survival.

4-17. Guard force.

The AATF can perform flank or rear guard missions for a division or larger force and help protect the main body from ground observation, direct fire, and surprise attack. As a guard force, it has sufficient combat power to attack enemy reconnaissance forces and to delay an enemy attack until the main body can deploy. The rear guard follows the main body, occupying successive positions. The rear guard also screens between flank positions and rear elements of the main body. The AATF conducts rear guard operations by moving from position to position. These movements are controlled by using designated phase lines.

4-18. Covering force.

The air reconnaissance squadron of the division can overfly rough terrain, find the enemy, and develop the situation. Brigades are deployed as necessary to ensure the uninterrupted movement of the main body. The brigade may use one of the following two methods to conduct the division covering force mission:

a. Reinforced air reconnaissance elements under divisional control reconnoiter while the air assault task force remains in assembly areas or on order to be available for commitment. When contact is made with the enemy, and after the air reconnaissance has developed the situation, AATFs are committed to destroy the enemy.

b. Brigades, with air cavalry elements under their operational control, conduct covering force operations as the division minus moves by bounds behind the leading brigade.

4-19. Reinforcement of committed units.

a. An AATF can reinforce a committed unit in three ways:

(1) With uncommitted units (reserves).

(2) With additional antitank (AD platoons.

(3) By moving field artillery to weight the battle.

b. Brigade commanders may direct the insertion of an AATF unit to reinforce threatened sectors or add depth to the battle area.

c. Antitank platoons may be taken from a reserve unit or a unit that is not protecting an armor approach. Depending on the number of sections employed, the AT platoon leader and/or the platoon sergeant accompanies them for command and control. Tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided (TOW) missile sections are used for their long-range fires and accuracy. Careful consideration is given to planning the extraction of AT platoons because they lack ground mobility. An infantry squad may accompany each section to provide security. The unit receiving an AT section assumes responsibility for effective positioning, integrating their fires with other elements, and providing necessary support.

d. Firing batteries can be rapidly shifted about the air assault battlefield to ensure fire support to committed units.

4-20. Linkup operations.

a. When withdrawal of an AATF from the objective area is not planned or feasible, a linkup operation is conducted to join two forces. The AATF may participate as part of a larger force, or it may conduct a linkup with its own resources. Close coordination and detailed planning between the commanders of both units are essential. Some of the things that must be coordinated are:

(1) Command relationships. To delineate responsibilities, it is necessary to specify who assumes command upon linkup. The headquarters directing the linkup determines the command relationship, its effective time, and the responsibilities of each force during the operation.

(2) Liaison and responsibilities. Once command relationships are established, the commanders of the units involved establish liaison. If conditions permit, the commander and liaison teams meet face to face; if not, then coordination is accomplished by radio or other available means, such as messengers. During the operation, the units attempt to maintain continuous radio contact with each other or with higher headquarters. As a minimum, the units exchange the following information:

(a) Enemy and friendly situations.

(b) Locations and types of obstacles (natural and artificial).

(c) Fire support plan.

(d) Air defense control measures.

(e) Recognition signals.

(3) Mutual recognition signal system. A system of mutual recognition signals is established and made known to all units participating in the linkup. Provisions are made for recognition procedures that may be used both day and night for air and ground elements alike.

(4) Communications. It is the responsibility of the headquarters directing the linkup to ensure communications-electronics operation instructions compatibility. If the linking units do not have the same CEOI, the higher headquarters directs one unit to change. The unit to change is normally the one not in contact, encircled, or breaking out. This is especially critical for recognition signals. If the units involved in the operation are neither under OPCON nor attached, they maintain their parent command nets.

(5) Schemes of maneuver. Both units' schemes of maneuver, to include control measures, are exchanged. When a passage of lines is required after linkup, the control measures include primary and alternate linkup points, start points, routes, and release points.

(6) Fire support. Fire support coordination measures are established and disseminated to both forces by the headquarters ordering the linkup. A restrictive fire line (RFL) is normally established on identifiable terrain as close as possible to the stationary force. The RFL prohibits the fires and the effects of fires from extending across the line without coordination with the affected force. Each force must be prepared to support the other as the situation dictates. Upon linkup, or at some prearranged time, control of supporting fire becomes the responsibility of the commander previously designated to have overall responsibility for the operation. Since the maneuvering unit is normally larger and has more supporting weapons and more reliable supply lines than the stationary AATF, the maneuvering unit can provide more support than the stationary unit. However, the stationary unit, since it is already in position, can provide some support to the maneuvering unit. Such support is limited by the amount of ammunition and the number and type of weapons assigned to the stationary unit.

(7) Actions after linkup. These are specified in the order given to the units conducting linkup. This ensures operational continuity and reduces massing of units. Actions may include reinforcing the defense of the area, conducting a coordinated attack, or passing the maneuver unit through the stationary unit to continue the attack.

(8) Assistance. This includes the mutual assistance that the stationary and maneuvering units can provide to each other. Because of its lack of assets in the airhead, the stationary unit normally can provide only limited assistance to the maneuvering unit. The stationary unit, however, can normally provide the following:

(a) Guides.

(b) Lanes through obstacles and the airhead.

(c) Traffic control.

(d) Limited logistical and maintenance support.

(e) Limited medical support (for example: holding areas for, and possible evacuation of, dead and wounded).

(f) Limited fire support.

(g) Information on recent enemy activity.

The maneuvering unit normally provides more assistance because of its established lines of communications. However, if it experienced heavy combat during the move to the linkup, this assistance may be reduced. The maneuvering unit can normally provide logistical, maintenance, medical, and fire support.

(9) Alternate plan. An alternate plan is developed to cope with unexpected enemy activity.

b. Once the airhead is established, the linkup points are occupied. When the maneuvering unit is within range and identified, communications are established between it and the stationary unit. Once linkup is effected, the two units follow the procedures for a passage of lines, and they continue their assigned missions.

4-21. River crossing operations.

AATFs by their makeup, may reduce CSS considerations during river crossing operations. Such forces may overfly the river or support bridge construction. Reconnaissance elements can be deployed by air to verify and collect essential intelligence on crossing sites and enemy dispositions. Objectives can be reached on the far shore quickly, eliminating enemy interference with development and use of crossing sites. Engineer bridging assets can be airlifted forward rapidly, eliminating traffic problems on the crossing site approaches. If a deliberate crossing is chosen, the AATF, with its increased mobility, can be used to clear the near shore of enemy resistance. During the actual crossing, whether it be hasty or deliberate, the AATF can assist by:

a. Attacking enemy forces that interfere with the crossing by seizing objectives thatwould secure, or assist in securing, the bridgehead.

b. Providing flank security.

c. Securing crossing sites.

d. Screening the crossing sites with smoke.

4-22. Rear operations.

a. Countering enemy airmobile, airborne, or guerrilla infiltration threats, the AATF monitors likely infiltration routes and probable target areas for airborne or airmobile attacks. Probable LZs and PZs are identified and monitored by observation posts or remote sensors. Potential infiltration routes in unoccupied terrain are monitored with sensors to detect the enemy as early as possible.

b. Air reconnaissance units provide wide-area surveillance and security, and are integrated into reaction force plans.

c. Rear operations are coordinated with designated military police, civil affairs groups, and other civil and military organizations. The AATF, as the initial reaction force, contains the enemy force if it does not have enough combat powers to destroy it, and relies on additional forces to destroy the enemy.

4-23. Limited visibility operations.

a. A commander may desire to take advantage of limited visibility conditions to gain maximum surprise or deception, maintain the momentum of successful operations, reinforce or withdraw committed units, and/or deploy maneuver support elements.

b. The following aircraft operational requirements must be considered:

(1) Desired directions) and route(s) of movement for aircraft (to include identification of selected terrain feature).

(2) The identity and location of LZs and/or PZs.

(3) Emergency ground-to-air signals.

(4) Directions and points of landing for aircraft.

(5) The presence of LZ obstacles is indicated to the aircraft flight commanders through electronic and/or visual navigation aids.

c. Some advantages of limited visibility operations are:

(1) Aircraft are partially concealed from enemy visual observation.

(2) Maximum surprise and confusion can be achieved.

(3) Continuous pressure can be exerted on the enemy.

(4) Effective enemy air defense fire, and interdiction by enemy aircraft, are diminished.

d. Disadvantages of limited visibility operations also exist. The need for more elaborate control measures and caution on the part of the aviators and troops slow operations. However, with proper equipment, constant training, and a thorough knowledge of techniques, these disadvantages may be overcome. The following factors are considered:

(1) More time is required for planning, preparation, and execution.

(2) Formation flight is more difficult, and formations are more dispersed.

(3) LZs and/or PZs used should be larger.

(4) Navigation is more difficult.

(5) Additional illumination is planned and immediately available to the AATFC in case it is necessary for mission accomplishment.

4-24. Operations in a nuclear, biological, and chemical environment.

a. In the event of a nuclear attack, AATFs can conduct a radiological survey and, when feasible, move into the target area after the explosion to stall enemy exploitation of its effect. AATFs can rapidly and safely bypass obstacles created by a nuclear strike, whether their objective is within or beyond the target area.

b. When planning air assault operations in conjunction with friendly nuclear munitions employment, the planner must consider:

(1) Effects of intense light on pilot vision.

(2) Effects of intense heat on equipment and personnel.

(3) Effects of blast waves on aircraft in flight.

(4) Residual radiation rates on the LZs.

(5) Utilization of LZs; debris may prohibit their use.

(6) Effects of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) on electronic equipment.

(7) Selection of approach and departure routes into contaminated LZs.

(8) Use of alternate LZs when primary LZs are judged as having too high a residual radiation rate.

c. Planning for air assault operations in a toxic environment includes consideration of the following:

(1) Reconnaissance of areas known or suspected of contamination.

(2) Selection of routes and positions with regard to contaminated areas to avoid stirring up or spreading agents with rotor wash.

(3) Protection of supplies and equipment.

d. The three principles of NBC operations (contamination avoidance, protection, and decontamination) are fundamentals that ensure survival (see FMs 3-3, 3-4, and 3-5).

e. If air assault operations must be conducted following contamination, the AATFC may direct that hasty (spot) decontamination of aircraft be accomplished. Spot decontamination is an effective means of decontaminating specific areas of an aircraft. This sustains flight operation since certain functional areas are treated before they are touched. Surfaces must be washed with decontaminants to flush agents off the aircraft skin. Small amounts of the NBC agent (absorbed into the fuselage paint) will probably remain after decontaminating. The evaporation of these residues can create a vapor hazard; therefore, personnel in and around the aircraft continue to wear the protective mask and gloves. Decontamination reduces the hazard of agent contact and transfer. Six functional areas applicable to spot decontamination are:

(1) Refueling procedures.

(2) Rearming procedures.

(3) Entry and exit from the aircraft.

(4) Preflight and postflight inspections.

(5) Maintenance inspections.

(6) Battle damage repair.

Aviation personnel are trained in spot-decontamination procedures but may require equipment to effect all required decontamination quickly.


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