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Is The FSCL Obsolete

Is The FSCL Obsolete?

 

CSC 1992

 

SUBJECT AREA Operations

 

 

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

Title: Is the FSCL Obsolete?

 

Author: Major Richard C. Daniels, U.S. Marine Corps

 

Thesis: Although misinterpreted and improperly used

as a boundary to delineate battlefield areas of

responsibility, the FSCL facilitates maximum effective use

of battlefield operating systems (BOS).

 

Background: The modern battlefield is going

through growing pains as it assimilate weapons systems

capable of projecting combat power to greater depths than

ever before. The ability of the ground commander to strike

deep with organic weapons parallels that of the Air Force;

to many, this makes the FSCL obsolete. During Operation

Desert Storm, the FSCL was reduced to that of a boundary

separating the close and deep battle areas and creating

confusion for commanders properly employing it. It is pre-

cisely because of the lethality of our weapons systems that

every measure possible be employed to ensure the safety of

troops and aircraft and prevent duplication of effort.

 

Recommendation: The FSCL should remain the

key measure for coordinating and synchronizing fire support

on the battlefield; it is not a boundary and should not be

used as such. The FSCL should be assigned and defined by a

single commander, the JTF or Cinc, and its function fully

interoperable to joint and combined forces.

 

 

IS THE FSCL OBSOLETE?

OUTLINE

 

Thesis Statement. Although misinterpreted and

improperly used as a boundary to delineate battlefield areas

of responsibility, the FSCL facilitates maximum effective

use of battlefield operating systems (BOS).

 

I. Introduction

 

II. Current Use of the FSCL

A. Definitions of the FSCL

(1) JCS

(2) US Army

(3) US Marine Corps

 

III. FSCL Problems:

A. Terminology:

(1) Future Global Operations

(2) Interoperability of Battlefield Geometric

erms

B. FSCL: Permissive or Restrictive?

C. FSCL = Boundary?

D. Who Establishes the FSCL - JTF/CinC?

E. Weapons Technology

(1) Combat Power Projection Deep

(2) FSCL for Targets of Opportunity Only

(3) Organic Weapons of the Army/Marine Corps

 

IV. Conclusion

 

IS THE FSCL OBSOLETE?

By Major Richard C. Daniels, USMC

 

If as Services, we get too critical among ourselves,

hunting for exact limiting lines in the shadow land of

responsibility as between . . . (the services), hunting

for and spending our time arguing about it, we will deserve

the very fate we will get in war, which is defeat. We have

got to be of one family, and it is more important today than

it ever has been.

 

Dwight D. Eisenhower

 

 

The shift in military strategy from forward deployed

 

forces to power projection for worldwide contingencies poses

 

unique challenges for fire support coordinators and plan-

 

ners. Recent joint and combined operations in Southwest

 

Asia bear this out. The battlefield as we know it is under

 

redesign, reorganization and new management. On this

 

rapidly changing battlefield, there must be a distinct

 

understanding of all battlefield operating systems and the

 

fire support coordination measures necessary to accomplish

 

the mission with "zero" fratricide cases and minimal

 

collateral damage.

 

The present warfighting philosophy calling for pre-

 

cise, synchronized fire support coordination to achieve

 

specific operational and tactical objectives is not new to

 

the Marine Corps. What is new, however, is the extensive

 

reliance on computers; everything from precision guided

 

weapons to a hand-held wonder of the battlefield called the

 

Geographical Positioning System (GPS) which, by the use of

 

satellites, instantly pinpoints your exact location. The

 

complicated mathematical method of graphical resection to

 

determine your location has been replaced.1

 

This illustrates similar changes to fire support coor-

 

dination on the modern battlefield. Technological advances

 

have dramatically increased our ability to see and control

 

the battlefield. The need to enhance our targeting and fire

 

support coordination has never been greater. The Fire

 

Support Coordination Line (FSCL) demonstrated its effect-

 

iveness for nearly 50 years by coordinating fires on targets

 

in the deep battle area. Although misinterpreted and impro-

 

perly used as a boundary to delineate battlefield areas of

 

responsibility, the FSCL facilitates maximum effective use

 

of battlefield operating systems (BOS). Just as lethal

 

weaponry rules the battlefield, the FSCL should continue its

 

function as primary coordinator of BOS's in the deep battle

 

area. The key is common usage and understanding, without

 

which, we stand to lose troops and materiel and risk

 

failure.

 

With the increased emphasis of fire support coordination

 

and targeting of long-range fires into the deep battle zone,

 

all commanders on the battlefield must clearly understand

 

three important points: (1) Who establishes the FSCL?, (2)

 

What the FSCL permits or restricts in its function as a

 

control measure, and (3) That the FSCL is a tool that

 

facilitates the planning and execution of fire - not a

 

boundary or a means of dividing the battlefield into areas

 

of responsibility.

 

Weapon systems technology has significantly enhanced the

 

ability of the commander to shape the battlefield from

 

tremendous distances. Although the Marine Corps operates in

 

these areas, clear distinctions between the close, deep and

 

rear battles are not etched in doctrine nor defined in

 

Marine Corps publications. A rough draft of Fleet Marine

 

Force Manual (FMFM 2), MAGTF Doctrine, is the first Marine

 

Corps Manual to draw a distinction between the three.2

 

The purpose of this paper is to evoke in the reader a

 

sense of continued necessity for the FSCL by JCS defin-

 

ition. Coincidentally, current and potential FSCL problems

 

will be looked at as they relate to changes in international

 

relationships, technology, as well as, service misappli-

 

cation and misinterpretation.

 

Is the FSCL broken or obsolete? Is there a true FSCL on

 

the modern battlefield? To what extent does service

 

interpretation and depiction of battlefield geometry affect

 

interoperability? These questions must be answered in order

 

to foster a mutual understanding of the FSCL. If not

 

answered now as technology advances and the world continues

 

to change, the gap of misunderstanding will increase and

 

will eventually become counterproductive and may cost lives.

 

 

Definitions

 

JCS (DOD, NATO and IADB). The JCS Pub 1 defines the

 

fire support coordination line as:

 

A line established by the appropriate ground com-

mander to insure coordination of fire not under

his control but which may affect current tactical

operations. The fire support coordination line is

used to coordinate fires of air, ground or sea

weapons systems using any type of ammunition

against surface targets. The FSCL should follow

well defined terrain features. The establishment

of the FSCL must be coordinated with the appro-

priate tactical air commander and other supporting

elements. Supporting elements may attack targets

forward of the FSCL, without prior coordination

with the ground force commander, provided the

attack will not produce adverse surface effects

on, or to the rear of, the line. Attacks against

surface targets behind this line must be coordi-

nated with the appropriate ground force

commander.3

 

It must be noted that the above definition states

 

nothing about using the FSCL as a boundary to divide

 

battlefield area responsibilities or as a line to delineate

 

the deep and close battle areas. Although there may be

 

merit to such arguments, by JCS definition the FSCL is a

 

permissive fire support coordination measure. Misinter-

 

pretation and mislabeling by branches of the armed services,

 

other than the Marine Corps, has resulted in delusion of the

 

original intent.

 

Army definition, derived from FM 100-15 is as follows:

 

An FSCL may be established by the corps within

its area of operations to support its concept of

operation. Its location must be coordinated with

the appropriate tactical air commander and other

supporting elements. If established, the purpose

of this permissive fire control measure is to

allow the corps and its subordinate and supporting

units (for example, Air Force) to expeditiously

attack targets of opportunity beyond the FSCL.

The attack of targets beyond the FSCL by Army

assets should be coordinated with the supporting

tactical air component. The inability to effect

this coordination will not preclude the attack of

targets beyond the FSCL. . .The exact positioning is

situationally dependent. . . it does not normally

delineate areas of responsibility. Its greatest

utility is in facilitating the attack of time-

sensitive targets of opportunity. 4

 

For the most part, there is consistency between the JCS

 

definition and Army doctrine. However, significant

 

differences arise in the use of the FSCL by the Army as

 

compared to that of the Marine Corps. For example, the Army

 

places their FSCL considerably forward of that normally done

 

by the Marine Corps.5 This is not only due to the different

 

methods of employing air support but also because of the

 

Army's ability to reach into the deep battle with organic

 

weapons systems. Additionally, Desert Storm practices by

 

the Army conflict with the above definition; that is, the

 

FSCL was used as a measure to divide battlefield areas of

 

responsibility.

 

The Army's Airland Operations includes close air support

 

and battlefield air interdiction (BAI). BAI refers to the

 

attack of any enemy target not in proximity to friendly

 

forces, but which has a near-term effect on the operations

 

or scheme of maneuver of ground forces. BAI requires

 

coordination during planning and execution and is conducted

 

short of the FSCL.

 

Another relatively new coordination measure employed and

 

established by the Army during Desert Storm is the

 

Reconnaissance and Interdiction Planning Line (RIPL).

 

Target responsibility short of the RIPL is delineated to

 

Corps commanders. The RIPL is normally placed at the limit

 

of the Army's target acquisition capability. Targeting

 

responsibility beyond the RIPL is left to the Army

 

commander. (See Figure l.)

 

This battlefield design has merit if the FSCL is used as

 

originally intended. If used as a boundary to separate the

 

division and corps' deep, call it a boundary. The require-

 

ment for a means of delineating the deep battle should not

 

be in dispute; it must be clearly identified and understood

 

by commanders, whether talking about the division, corps or

 

army's deep (USMC equivalent = GCE, MAGTF or theater).

 

 

Click here to view image

 

Marine Corps Definition

 

In definition, as well as doctrine, the Marine Corps

 

follows the JCS definition to the letter. FMFM 7-1 states:

 

The FSCL is a line beyond which all targets

may be attacked by any weapon system (including

aircraft and special weapons) without endangering

friendly troops or requiring additional coordin-

ation with the establishing headquarters. The

effects of any weapon system may not fall short of

this line.6 (See Figure 2)

 

As with all fire support coordination measures, the FSCL

 

is designed to maximize the effectiveness of all battlefield

 

operating systems without endangering troop safety or dupli-

 

cation of supporting fires from air and artillery. When

 

properly employed and understood by commanders, joint and

 

combined, these coordination measures will synchronize the

 

battle. If not, the FSCL becomes just another boundary.

 

FSCL Problems

 

Terminology. It is increasingly apparent that

 

future military operations will be joint and/or combined; it

 

is imperative that existing terminology and doctrine be

 

understood not only by the tactical commander, but the oper-

 

ational and national commander as well. In such an environ-

 

ment, it will not do to continue using terms and doctrinally

 

practicing battlefield geometric principles mutually

 

exclusive of joint and combined understanding. The FSCL is

 

but one fire support tool that is misused and misunderstood.

 

Future operations, more than likely, will not provide us

 

with a common language, doctrine or goals. An FSCL by any

 

 

Click here to view image

 

 

other name, as long as it is known and properly executed,

 

will save lives and prevent duplication of effort.

 

A recent Position Paper, prepared by the Second Marine

 

Division, addressed battlefield geometry issues that hinder

 

interoperability; two of the primary recommendations germane

 

to this paper were, standardizing terminology, and

 

commonality of doctrine relative to battlefield geometry.

 

Standardized terminology is an absolute must to successful

 

future global operations.7

 

Interoperability should be a major concern for the

 

United States, particularly in view of recent world changes;

 

in the European theater, it has been a goal for the US Army

 

and its NATO allies for years. Allied combat operations

 

during Desert Storm suggest that interoperability is

 

globally applicable. One of the most important elements of

 

interoperability, is units that intend to fight together

 

must understand one another's doctrine and the doctrines

 

cannot be too dissimilar.

 

 

FSCL - Permissive or

Restrictive?

 

That the FSCL is permissive or restrictive in nature has

 

been argued for years and will continue to be as long as

 

there is disparity in terminology and variances in its

 

doctrinal usage. Permissive measures permit engagement of

 

targets beyond the line or into an area without further

 

coordination; restrictive measures require coordination with

 

the establishing headquarters of that line or boundary.

 

Again, JCS definition states ". . . may attack targets forward

 

of the FSCL, without prior coordination with the ground

 

force commander..." It is clear by definition that the FSCL

 

is permissive - to this issue both the Army and the Marine

 

Corps agree. The Air Force, however, has always looked at

 

the FSCL as restrictive; prior to ownership of advanced

 

weapons by the Army and Marine Corps, the deep battle tar-

 

gets belonged solely to the Air Force. Not true any longer.

 

The problem, simply stated, is that the Army's adoption

 

of the FSCL as a permissive control measure to separate the

 

Air Force's and Army's battles denigrates the FSCL to

 

nothing more than a boundary - a boundary not needed nor

 

which serves the purpose of synchronizing and coordinating

 

fire.

 

FSCL = Boundary?

 

Boundaries are restrictive in that no unit may fire

 

across them unless coordinated with the unit assigned that

 

area of responsibility. A boundary, by definition, will not

 

provide commanders with sufficient control of aircraft to

 

ensure troop and aircraft safety from ground delivered

 

weapons or coordinate airstrikes with the maneuvering ground

 

forces. The importance of boundaries to effective fire

 

control cannot be overemphasized. The reference should be

 

kept in the context of "areas of responsibility"; the area

 

beyond the FSCL will normally be the deep battle and will be

 

targets of opportunity for the tactical air component.

 

It can be argued that there is no true FSCL on today's

 

modern battlefield, certainly not in its original

 

designation as a "bomb line" during World War II. Using the

 

FSCL by JCS definition has distinct advantages over a

 

boundary. The FSCL is permissive and permits uncoordinated

 

fire support on targets of opportunity, whereas the boundary

 

is restrictive. Therefore, if a commander wanted to attack

 

a target beyond the "fire support boundary," he would not

 

enjoy complete freedom to do so.

 

 

Who establishes the FSCL?

 

Although it may seem juvenile to discuss which commander

 

is saddled or blessed with the responsibility of estab-

 

lishing the FSCL, lessons learned from Desert Storm indicate

 

the necessity is real. Perhaps more important than who

 

draws the line, is who will define its doctrinal applica-

 

tion. The joint or combined environment of the future makes

 

it critical that there be one commander to establish and

 

define the FSCL; that commander should be the Joint Task

 

Force (JTF) commander or the theater Commander in Chief

 

(CinC). All targets of opportunity should be made under the

 

strict guidance provided by the JTF or CINC.8

 

 

Weapons Technology

 

The commander now has the capability to project combat

 

power to greater depths than ever before. The days of

 

visual observation of targets and impact areas have gone the

 

way of graphical resection. Is there a need for the FSCL

 

when modern weapons systems have incredible reach into the

 

deep battle area from greater distances and with tremendous

 

precision? Just as it would be unwise to trash our

 

compasses with the advent of GPS, so it is ridiculous to

 

eliminate or disregard a primary fire support coordination

 

measure because we have attained greater depth with modern

 

weapons systems and can reach into the Air Force's deep

 

battle area.

 

A recent article in Field Artillery, takes a detailed

 

look at fire support coordination with specific emphasis on

 

boundaries and the "broken FSCL." It indicates that the

 

FSCL was primarily used as a boundary during Desert Storm

 

and states, ". . if the FSCL were used as a boundary, then

 

there wouldn't be a problem... The bottom line: the boundary

 

is much clearer. " It further concedes that the FSCL

 

expedites the Air Force's attack of targets of opportunity

 

but that the FSCL should have parameters placed on it.

 

These "fixes" run the gambit of making the FSCL for targets

 

of opportunity only to specifying a single manager of the

 

area wherein "... all fires delivered into this area should

 

be oriented on achieving the operational goals of the corps

 

commander. . ."

 

The Marine Corps and the Army's capability to strike

 

deep with organic weapons, such as: the Patriot Missile,

 

the Tactical Land Attack Missile System (TLAMS - Tomahawks),

 

the Multiple-Launch Rocket System (MLRS), the Apache Attack

 

Helicopter Battalion (ATKHB), the Joint Surveillance and

 

Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS), aircraft carrying smart

 

bombs, and advanced field artillery, contribute to the crust

 

of the argument for eliminating the FSCL altogether. Not so

 

fast. Although these weapons systems (and others not

 

listed) greatly extend the reach of the commander, the

 

commander's need for synchronization and coordination of

 

fire is paramount to avoiding friendly on friendly kills,

 

duplication of fires on targets, and interoperability.

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

 

The key to success on the future joint and combined

 

battlefield is not solely dependent on the United States'

 

ability to kill the enemy violently and decisively with

 

advanced weaponry. The key word is interoperability. The

 

nature of joint and combined operations pose unique

 

challenges for fire support coordination and synchronization

 

of the non-linear battlefield. Understanding each other's

 

capabilities is a good beginning, however, is not suffi-

 

cient to ensure success. Unless all branches of the armed

 

services speak the same tactical language without compli-

 

cated and confusing interpretations, the battlefield will be

 

reduced to a killing zone of our own troops.

 

The FSCL has been misapplied for years and will, more

 

than likely, continue to be unless joint doctrine and ter-

 

minology becomes the foundation for new doctrine. Whether

 

the FSCL is called a boundary or the Battle Handover Line or

 

whatever, it remains the key measure for coordinating and

 

synchronizing fire support. It is not a boundary and should

 

not be used as such. Space-age weapons are incredibly

 

accurate and destructive; it is for this reason that fire

 

support control measures have never been more important to

 

battlefield geometry.

 

Technological advancements are the result of years of

 

planning and budgeting by service leadership looking to

 

future requirements and-taking deliberate steps to meet

 

goals. As each branch of service places emphases

 

differently, each will advance technically at different

 

rates. Respective doctrinal changes will follow

 

technological advances and the margin of mutual

 

understanding will increase unless developed jointly vice

 

by individual branches of the armed services.

 

 

 

FOOTNOTES

 

l. Lt. M.F. Beavers, "Quick, Where am I?" The Field Artillery

Journal, Jun41 p. 417.

 

2. U.S. Marine Corps. FMFM 2. "MAGTF Doctrine (Rough Draft)."

pg. 4-6.

 

3. JCS Pub 1. pg. 144.

 

4. U.S. Army. FM 100-15: pg 3-2 to 3-3.

 

5. Maj. Joe V. Medina, "Delineating the Deep Battle."

Unpublished paper at CSC, Quantico, Va. 91.

 

6. U.S. Marine Corps. FMFM 7-1. "Fire Support Coordination,"

pg 2-10 to 2-17.

 

7. BGen VanRiper, "Battlefield Geometry." Draft Position Paper

(Unpublished). 2dMarDiv, Camp Lejeune,N.C., Mar92.

 

8. LtCol Driest, MAGTF Instruction Team. Personal Interview

regarding FSCL. Command and Staff College, Quantico, Va. Mar92

 

9. Maj Jay F. Grandin, "Fire Support Coordination - It's Time for

a Relook," Field Artillery, Feb92, pg 19-23.

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

1.                Albaneze, Cpt. Michael A. and LtC William H. Bryan.

"Desert Storm and the 3-d) Maneuver Battlefield."

Army Aviation Nov91: 18-21.

 

2.                Beavers, Lt. M.F. "Quick! Where Am I." The Field

Artillery Journal Jun41: 417.

 

3.                Driest, LtCol. Personal Interview regarding FSCL. MAGTF

Instruction Team, Command and Staff College,

Quantico, Va. Mar92.

 

4.                Grandin, Maj Jay F. "Fire Support Coordination - It's

Time for a Relook. Field Artillery Feb92: 19-23.

 

5. Jensen, Maj Mark S. "MLRS in Operation Desert Storm."

Field Artillery Aug9l: 30-34.

 

6. Kleiner, Col Martin S. "Joint Stars Goes to War." Field

Artillery Feb92: 25-29.

 

7.                Medina, Maj Joe V. "Delineating the Deep Battle."

Unpublished Paper, Command and Staff College,

Quantico, Va. Dec92.

 

8.                Riley, Col (Ret) Robert S. "New Concepts for Organizing

and Managing Fire Support." Field Artillery

Feb88: 42-47.

 

9.                VanRiper, BGen. "Battlefield Geometry." Position Paper

(draft-unpublished), 2d Marine Division, Camp

Lejeune, NC: Mar92.

 

10. JCS Pub 1. pg 144.

 

11. U.S. Marine Corps. FMFM 2. "MAGTF Doctrine (Rough

Draft)." pg. 4-6.

 

12.            U.S. Marine Corps. FMFM 7-4. "Field Artillery

Support."

 

13.            U.S. Marine Corps. FMFM 7-1. "Fire Support

Coordination." pg. 2-10 to 2-17.

 

14. U.S. Army. FM 100-15: pg. 3-2 to 3-3.



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