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Close Air Support And The Marine Air/Ground Team
                           CLOSE AIR SUPPORT AND THE
                            MARINE AIR/GROUND TEAM
                                 Submitted to
                            Dr. Rudolph V. Wiggins
                   In Partial Fulfullment of Requirements
                          for Written Communications
                  The Marine Corps Command and Staff College
                              Quantico, Virginia
                               Major S. D. Haley
                          United Stated Marine Corps
                                 April 2, 1984
                   CLOSE AIR SUPPORT AND THE
                    MARINE AIR/GROUND TEAM
Thesis sentence:   In the anticipated antiair high threat
                   environment, successful close air sup-
                   port missions cannot be conducted with-
                   out greatly improving current procedures
                   and techniques.
   I.  Introduction
       A.  Close air support defined
       B.  The objective of close air support
  II.  Close Air Support as it's conducted today
       A.  The Marine Air/Ground Team exercise
       B.  Effects of the threat to close air support
 III.  The Marine Corps approach
       A.  Close air support doctrine and tactics
       B.  Close air support techniques and procedures
       C.  The three problem areas
  IV.  Proposals
       A.  Navigation aid development
       B.  FAC team restructure and marking round
       C.  Need for realistic integrated training
   V.  Conclusion
       A.  Close air support needs to be in our arsenal
       B.  We must not be unprepared
     Without timely, accurate intelligence and the effective
use of all, repeat all, fire support assets available, even
the most competent ground tactician cannot hope to defeat
the highly mobile and numerically superior forces of our
identified threat.  As Marines, we must continually strive
to understand both our likely enemy and the combat assets
available to us.  Additionally, we must be bold enough to
identify our shortcomings while being innovative enough to
correct those shortcomings identified.
     The purpose of this discussion is to address and resolve
those questions that pertain to close air support as a
productive member of the modern Marine Air/Ground Team.  Any
attempt to address this topic must include a short review
of the mechanics of providing close air support to the
ground commander.  Close air support is defined by JCS Pub 1
     Air attacks against hostile targets which are in
     close proximity to friendly forces and which
     require detailed integration of each air mission
     with the fire and movement of those forces.
     The objective of close air support is to harass,
neutralize, or destroy enemy ground forces that present an
immediate and direct threat to friendly ground forces.
Close air support must be integrated with other supporting
arms so as to provide the ground commander with a variety
of options needed to maintain the initiative and thus
accomplish his mission with a minimum loss of life.1
     The fundamental doctrine of close air support is to
respond to the ground commander's requirements in a timely
and effective manner.  This concept places emphasis on
responsiveness, lethality and integration with the ground
scheme of maneuver.  Responsiveness is the ability to pro-
vide close air support at the time and the place required
by the ground commander.  This same commander must have
ordnance on target when and where such ordnance is needed
in order for close air support to be considered a viable
member of tne air/ground team.
     Ideally, close air support should respond in a very
short time, accurately deliver a lethal load of ordnance,
do so at all times regardless of night or weather conditions,
and survive in the most sophisticated air defense environ-
ment.  Considering the complexity and diversity of today's
modern battlefield, the Marine Corps is not totally able
to conduct successful close air support missions when and
where the ground commander needs them.  Therefore, it must
be concluded that close air support, as Marines conduct it
today, is not a fully productive member of our air/ground
team.  If the ground commander cannot rely on a high
percentage of tasked close air support missions to drop a
lethal load of ordnance on a specific target at a specific
time, then what use is close air support to him?
     Many who read this article may feel that what they have
just read is blasphemy.  On the other hand, many will in-
terpet it as being totally realistic.  Consider, if you will,
the most recent integrated Marine Air/Ground Team exercise
that you may have observed or perhaps even been a member of.
Try to recall your overall impression of close air support.
Unfortunately, many of you will remember that the overall
effect of close air support was less than satisfactory.
Real and effective close air support is not an area weapon
which is delivered at approximately the desired time.  Rather
it is, or should be, the delivery of lethal loads of ordnance
at the time and place required by the ground commander.
     After reviewing the above, it would appear as if the
conduct of destructive close air support missions were no
longer feasible.  What has transpired in recent years to
make close air support so difficult?  Are we, as Marines,
overlooking important aspects, singly or in consort, which
could in fact produce positive results in the conduct of
close air support missions?  The basic question that needs
to be answered is "Can close air support once again be-
come a viable player on the Marine Air/Ground Team?"  The
remainder of this discussion will be directed to analyzing
these three questions and offering several recommendations,
any one of which would enhance the effectiveness of Marine
close air support. Collectively, these recommendations might
just be instrumental in the return of a most effective member
to the supporting arms inventory of our air/ground team.
     It should come as no surprise that the primary reason
close air support has become less effective is due to the
explosive increase in the threat to close air support aircraft.
This threat has caused accepted doctrine and tactics to
change dramatically. Enemy ground-based air defense systems
consist of a variety of weapons deployed in-depth and capable
of defending against airborne attack from ground level up to
extreme altitudes.  Not only are present day antiaircraft
defense systems extremely effective, they are also highly
mobile.  Their mobility enables the majority of these systems
to move in close proximity to enemy ground force maneuver
     The October 1973 Arab-Israeli War provides an excellent
example of the high density, sophisticated air defense
environment.  The Israelis quickly discovered that aircraft
tactics and equipment which had been effective in previous
conflicts were inadequate against the Arab antiaircraft
defensive systems.  Of the approximate 120 Israeli aircraft
lost in this short conflict, the major losses were suffered
by close air support aircraft over, or immediately adjacent
to, the forward edge of the battle area.  These losses were
due to air defense weapon systems and not a result of air-
to-air combat.2
     The Israeli close air support efforts were challenged
by several systems that they had not previously encountered.
Specifically, the Russian made SA-2 and SA-3 antiaircraft
missle systems employed in static positions and the highly
mobile Russian made ZSU-23-4 antiaircraft gun and the SA-6
and SA-7 antiaircraft missile systems.  The availability
of these type off antiaircraft defense systems throughout
the world has forced all close air support tacticians to
rethink their approach to close air support operations.
Marine Corps tacticians must continue to develop new tactics
which will enhance the survivability of aircraft and air-
crews while still performing the all important close air
support function.
     It has become increasingly apparent that the develop-
ment of aerial tactics which will effectively counter enemy
antiair defense systems is a most difficult task.  The
majority of the worlds larger air forces consider the threat
to friendly close air support aircraft so great in the high
threat environment that operations can be conducted only at
the risk of unacceptable aircraft losses.  Their basic method
of employing close air support is as an emergency supporting
arm when all other resources have failed and the predicted
aircraft losses are justified by the situation.  In both the
recent Israeli/Syrian confrontation in Lebanon and in the
United Kingdom/Argentina conflict in the Falklands, almost no
close air support missions were conducted.  Considering the
extensive air operations conducted by all four countries in
these conflicts, the almost total lack of close air support
could lead one to believe that this mission for aircraft is
in fact in the "too hard box".
     Since Lt. Sanderson's first attempts at dive bombing
in support of ground forces in Haiti in 1919, the Marine
Corps has devoted a great deal of time, effort and talent to
the very complex problem of providing the ground commander
with accurate and timely close air support.3   This expend-
iture of time, effort and talent must not subside.  Rather,
we must now develop and perfect a close air support delivery
system capable of outwitting the enemies' integrated air
defense systems.  Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics
Squadron-1, the Marine Corps Development and Education
Command, and Marines throughout the Fleet Marine Forces are
continually refining and revising our Corps doctrine and
tactics on employment of close air support.  The many Fleet
Marine Force Manuals (FMFMs), Operational Handbooks (OHs),
Instructional Publications (IPs) and supporting courses of
instruction provide Marines with the world's most practical
approach to conducting successful close air support missions
under anticipated battlefield conditions.  Current doctrine
and tactics for close air support provide the foundation upon
which general guidance is applied in Air/Ground Relationships,
Command and Control, Offensive Air Support Employment, and
Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses.  The beauty of our doctrine
and tactics is that Marines are working with Marines.  We
speak a common language and we are striving to achieve a
common goal. Once the need for close air support has been
identified, our supporting publications provide in-depth
detail on how all Marines concerned should proceed until
mission accomplishment.  Why then, when you look downrange,
is there little or no ordnance on target?
     The answer to this last question will not be found in
either faulty doctrine or tactics, but rather in the less
than perfect techniques and procedures applied to close air
support.  Our Corps application of close air support
principles is as good as can be expected considering our
present equipment and level of training.  However, as
previously alluded to, the conduct, and therefore the final
result, of close air support missions is generally unaccept-
able. The reason for this can be placed in three categories;
communications, the pilot's inability to acquire the target,
and training.  Essentially, we need to be able to alert the
pilot to a mission, guide the pilot to the target area, aid
the pilot in acquiring the correct target and do so at the
time it will best support the ground commander's scheme of
maneuver.  As stated in Marine Corps Aviation: The Early
Years, 1912-1940, these are not new problems:
           Marine fliers found their close support
     efforts hindered rather than helped by their
     new fast aircraft.  Pilots in slow-moving
     DH-4Bs could locate friendly and enemy posi-
     tions relatively easily by sight and sound,
     but aviators of the 30's, often riding in
     closed cockpits, swept across the lines too
     quickly to orient themselves.
           By the end of the decade, both ground
     and air Marines realized that the solutions to
     these problems lay in improved radio commu-
     nication, simplified and mutually understood
     systems for locating ground targets, and still
     more intensive joint training, but the imple-
     mentation of these measures remained incomplete
     at the outbreak of the war with Japan.
     The overall problem of communications is not unique
to the close air support mission and has been well devel-
oped and addressed in professional articles and publi-
cations.  However, there is one unique aspect of commu-
ications associated with the conduct of close air support
in a sophisticated air defense environment.  Current tactics
require close air support aircraft to fly a low altitude
ingress to the target at very high speeds in order to
enhance aircraft survivability.  These aircraft will operate
below line-of-sight radio communication capabilities of the
forward air controller (FAC).  The first time the FAC will
normally talk to the mission pilot is when the aircraft "pops"
to acquire the target.  At this point, there is very little
time to assist or direct the pilot in his attempt to locate
and identify the target.  The low level tactics of the pilot
do not allow for lengthy conversations or major course
corrections.  The lack of radio communications when conduct-
ing close air support can result in a failed mission which
could be devastating to friendly embattled ground forces.
However, communications is not the greatest limiting factor
when conducting close air support missions.
     The pilot's inability to acquire the proper target
while employing low level, high speed tactics is the major
cause of unsuccessful missions.  The visual acquisition of
the correct target is extremeiy difficult in a "clean"
training area and will only become more difficult in a
"dirty" battle area.  Simply stated, without the aircraft in
a near perfect position at its' "pop" and without the pilot
able to acquire the correct target immediately, there will
not be any bombs on that target.  These two factors, improper
"pop" position and the pilot's inability to acquire the
correct target, more than any others, limit the ability of
the pilot to deliver ordnance on target.
     To aid the pilot in arriving at the correct "pop"
position, an aircraft navigation aid (NAVAID) needs to be
developed for employment within Battalion Tactical Air
Control Parties (TACPs).  The NAVAID developed must be
compatible with present aircraft systems, TACAN or ADF;
must be high powered to burn through barrage jamming and
achieve long ranges; must be directional to counter
direction finding and imitative deception; must be easily
transportable; must offer a varied range of frequencies or
channel selections; and at least two NAVAIDs must be added
to the TACPs Table of Equipment (T/E).  Employment of
these NAVAIDs would be as depicted in figure 1.
Click here to view image
     The NAVAIDs would be employed on high ground to increase
the range at which a low level aircraft could receive the
transmitted signal. The optimum placement range of 8 to 16
nm from the FEBA will allow the pilot an adequate "run-in"
distance and should allow for placement of NAVAIDs in a
reliable line-of-sight position.  However, if placement on
high ground is not possible, an extendable antenna could be 
included with the basic unit.
     The directional antenna would require a 90 beam width
and a 15 beam height.  The beam area proposed would ensure
adequate area coverage behind the FEBA, for signal pickup 
by aircraft.  The 90 beam width, 45 either side of a line
generally perpendicular to the FEBA, would allow pilots to
fly much more precisely to their "pop" point anywhere along
a 16 to 32 nm front for each NAVAID employed.  The proposed
T/E of two NAVAIDs per battalion would allow continuous
operations, the ability to echelon forward, and also provide
additional options and capabilities to the TACP working for
the ground commander.
     In application, the pilot would intercept the assigned
NAVAID radial well behind the FEBA and fly that radial
inbound to the assigned NAVAID.  The reciprocal of the
assigned radial would be the intended ground track from the
NAVAID to the "pop" point.  The intercept radial, the
reciprocal heading, and the distance from the NAVAID to the
"pop" position would be applied to the navigation of the
final portion of the mission, the leg from the NAVAID to
the "pop" point.  The information required by the pilot to
conduct this mission could easily be included in the Tactical
Air Request and thereby reduce the problem of communications
between the pilot and the FAC.
     Employing the described equipment and procedures, there
is no reason not to expect a pilot to arrive within 400
meters of the desired "pop" point. Once the pilot has 
"popped" at the proper location, all that remains to be
accomplished is to aid the pilot in acquiring the desired
target.  Typically, indirect fire weapons using either smoke
or WP rounds are used to mark the desired target.  This
method of marking targets is normally effective for single
stationary targets in large open areas. However, it leaves
much to be desired for confined areas, moving targets,
camouflaged targets, or even selecting one target from
several in a general area. The fast moving, low flying pilot
requires a precisely placed and easily distinguishable mark
on the target.
     To accomplish this requirement, it will be necessary
to restructure the Forward Air Control Teams.  The Forward
Air Controller, (FAC), needs continuous control over a direct
fire weapon capable of marking targets up to 2500 meters to
his front.  He should also have direct control over an
indirect fire weapon capable of marking targets in excess of
2500 meters.  These weapons and their assigned crews need to
be made a permanent part of each FAC Team in the Marine
     Additionally, new marking rounds need to be developed.
The main battle area in the future will be extremely busy
with smoke and WP rounds used in large quanities.  It will
be impossible for a pilot in a fast moving aircraft to dis-
tinguish his assigned target.  An entire new series of bright-
ly colored smoke marking rounds and a high candle power
ground burning flare would greatly enhance the FAC's ability
to guide the pilot's eyes to the target.  Remember, target
acquisition is the one greatest limiting factor when con-
ducting close air support operations.
     Regardless of whether or not a NAVAID is developed that
will assist the pilot in finding the proper "pop" point and
FAC Teams are equipped with the weapons and rounds to aid
pilots in target acquisition, the question remains, "Will
close air support regain its status as a viable member of
our air/ground team?"  Close air support will certainly be
much closer to rejoining the team, but it still won't be the
complete team player.  In order to achieve full status as a
team player, one must be closely associated with the other
members of the team.  You must not only play by the same
rules, but you must exchange ideas, educate one another,
and understand each other's strengths and weaknesses.
     On today's air/ground teams the players that should
make close air support happen are not effective team members,
but are instead individual specialists.  Each specialist is
highly capable of performing his own individual function in
separate practice sessions, but when required to perform in
an integrated exercise the results are somewhat lacking.
These specialists quickly learn that they don't possess the
knowledge or the experience to integrate their speciality
with those of the other specialists.
     In actuality, the lack of integrated training and
coordination in the close air support effort is responsible
for our failure to produce the desired results of "bombs on
target" when and where the ground commander wants them.
Although the new equipment and types of marking rounds
suggested will greatly enhance the success rate of close air
support missions, the only way to achieve  high success rates
on the modern battlefield is by continuous, integrated train-
ing. To survive in battle, the air/ground team must train
the way it's going to fight.  The SEAD Operations Handbook
states it best:
           Regardless of how well doctrine and proce-
     dural publications are written, different inter-
     pretations will be made.  Further, the guidance
     in such publications can never be complete.  Only
     by training can the different interpretations of
     this handbook be identified and reconciled.  And,
     only by training can the reader learn those
     subtleties of application which are commonly
     included under the heading of judgment and
     We must put close air support back into the Marine Air/
Ground Teams arsenal.  This requires that we plan together,
work together, and train together or our doctrine and tactics
will be nothing more than well written publications.  The
time for our Corps to start is now.  We simply cannot afford
to be unprepared for the outbreak of war.  As it is often
alluded to, the next conflict will be a come as you are
affair.  All of the good intentions that have not been de-
veloped and/or implemented will not impress our future enemy.
We advertise ourselves as a modern Marine Air/Ground Team
of which close air support is an important member.  Let's
give this player the attention he deserves and return a
much needed supporting arm to the ground commander.
     1Crow, Major Myron W.,  USAF, The Development of
Close Air Support, June 1968     
     2U.S. Army Command and General Staff College,
Reference Book 100-2, Volume 1, The 1973 Middle East
War, August 1976
     3Johnson, Lieutenant Colonel Edward C., USMC,
Marine Corps Aviation: The Early Years 1912-1940,
August 1977
1.   Crowd Major Myron W., USAF.  The Development of
       Close Air Support, June 1968.
2.   Johnson, Lieutenant Colonel Edward C., USMC.
       Marine Corps Aviation: The Early Years 1912-
       1940, August 1977.
3.   U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.
       The 1973 Middle East War, August 1976.
4.   U.S. Marine Corps.  Marine Corps Development
       and Education Command.  Fire Support
       Coordination, FMFM 7-1, Quantico, 1983.
5.   U.S. Marine Corps.  Marine Corps Development
       and Education Command.  Fleet Marine Force
       Aviation, IP 5-7, Quantico, 1983.
6.   U.S. Marine Corps. Marine Corps Development
       and Education Command. Marine Aviation,
       FMFM 5-1, Quantico, 1979.
7.   U.S. Marine Corps. Marine Corps Development
       and Education Command.  Marine Close Air
       Support CAS Handbook, OH 5-4, Quantico, 1981.
8.   U.S. Marine Corps.  Marine Corps Development
       and Education Command.  SEAD Operations
       Handbook, OH 5-4.2, Quantico, 1984.

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