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Is The FSCL Obsolete

Is The FSCL Obsolete?


CSC 1992








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.






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


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



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




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.





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



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




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).



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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



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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



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




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.







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.






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.






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



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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