The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


"The Who" For Offensive Relief In Future MIC/HIC

"The Who" For Offensive Relief In Future MIC/HIC


CSC 1992


SUBJECT AREA National Military Strategy




Title: "The Who" For Offensive Relief in Future



Author: Major B.H. Fullerton, United States Army


Thesis: The combat aviation brigade from the corps is

well capable and suited for providing a planned

offensive relief for division-sized forces in future

armed conflict.


Maintaining offensive momentum has been a

challenge for armies throughout recorded history.

Whether light or mechanized, airborne or air assault,

commanders have struggled with the requirement. The

problem has been fighting their lead units and then

passing follow-on forces through when the lead units

have reached their culminating point. The ideal

situation is to have done this without a loss of

momentum from the enemy's perspective. Over the

centuries, nothing of substance has offset the

difficulties of such a battle handoff.


Army Aviation forces offer the first substantial

remedy to the problem. Their ability to pass over the

lead units, press the attack in practically any weather

and visibility conditions, and defeat mechanized and

armored units represents an unprecedented opportunity.

Desert Storm dramatically illustrated the relatively

long-range lethality of Army Aviation.


Current doctrine acknowledges the ability of

aviation to support an offensive relief, but fails to

recognize its' ability to conduct the relief. The

Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) organic to each Corps

offers the Corps Commander a means of executing a

planned offensive relief.


The Corps CAB could conduct an offensive relief

for a period of eight to twelve hours. As-easily as

the brigade could fly over the relieved unit in the

assumption, it could return and simply let the relieved

units resume the fight. A cyclic repeat of this

procedure could serve to extend the staying power of

the corps almost indefinitely.







Thesis Statement. The combat aviation brigade from the

corps, if augmented with sufficient ground maneuver

units, such as a mechanized infantry task force or a

light infantry battalion, or battalions, from

uncommitted reserve forces,, plus corps artillery

support, is well capable and suited for, providing a

planned offensive relief for division-sized forces in

future armed conflict.


I. Introduction

A. Maintenance of offensive momentum

B. Battle handoff

C. Future warfare


II. Current Doctrine

A. Airland Battle

B. Importance of depth


III. Historical Perspective

A. World War I

B. Momentum of heavy forces


IV. The Dilemma

A. SWA-Logistics Limit

B. Impact of Airland Operations on logistics

C. Converging Corps-The magnitude of maneuver

D. The pause for lead units

E. Current doctrinal options


V. An Available Solution

A. The Corps Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB)

B. Current capability

C. Current doctrinal handicap

D. Why the corps CAB

E. Reinforcing' the CAB


VI. Conclusion

A. The corps CAB can be "The Who"

B. The solution is available with no cost





by Major Brent H. Fullerton, United States Army






Maintaining offensive momentum has been a challenge for


armies throughout recorded history. Whether light or


mechanized, airborne or air assault, commanders have


struggled with the requirement. The critical point in


retaining the initiative has been how to relieve units that


had reached their culminating point without a pause in the


offensive. Battle handoff via a passage of lines is a


complex undertaking; doing it without allowing the enemy


some respite has proved to be virtually impossible. Future


warfare, with its increased emphasis on maneuver, promises


to aggravate the problem.


Maneuver is the necessary ingredient for decisive

operations. Tactical units, supported by massed

tactical air, corps artillery, and attack

helicopters, will maneuver to gain positional

advantage and complete the destruction of the

enemy force. Maneuver will differ significantly

in both distance and speed from the way battalions

and brigades conduct offensive operations today.

MG Silvasy, USA (7:2)





Current Army Airland Battle doctrine focuses on


maintenance of the initiative either by seizure or


retention. It seeks to throw the enemy off balance; to


rapidly follow up to prevent his recovery; and to conduct


continuous, aggressive, unpredictable, violent and


disorienting operations. (4:14) The emerging Army doctrine,


Airland Operations, retains these same basic characteristics


but emphasizes that the battlefield of the future will be


marked by wide separation of friendly units and between


those units and opposing forces. Maneuvering for combat


will require heavy divisions and corps to cover great


distances rapidly, form for combat, engage and destroy enemy


forces and then quickly disperse to avoid targeting by long-


range fires, either conventional or nuclear.


Department of The Army Field Manual 100-5 lists four


major tenets for Airland Battle: Initiative, Agility,


Depth, and Synchronization. Of the four, "depth" is the


most germane to this discussion. Depth is defined as the


extension of operations in space, time, and resources;


momentum in the attack and elasticity in defense derive from


depth. Momentum in the attack is achieved and maintained


when resources and forces are concentrated to sustain


operations over extended periods, reconnaissance is well


forward, the enemy is fixed and interdicted early, there are


adequate reserves, and follow-on, support, and logistics


forces move forward effectively. (4:15-18)





In World War I, both sides in the western sector were


desperately trying to achieve a strategic breakthrough.


Accomplishing a breakthrough at all proved most difficult.


Accomplishing a strategic breakthrough proved impossible.


The problem was one of not being able to maintain momentum


once a penetration of the opponent's trenches was made. The


primary reason for this was an inability to execute


offensive relief without a pause in the attack. On 1


January 1918, the Germans published The Attack in Position


Warfare, which became the basic document for the German


offensives of 1918. Unlike previous doctrine, it stressed


disruption through deep penetration versus destruction. The


doctrine emphasized keeping the enemy off balance, pressing


the attack continuously, and retaining the initiative.




To maintain the momentum of an attack, the

belligerents had tried several different methods

for relieving the leading units in the attack

during the war. The French had tried successive

waves (the first wave taking one objective, the

second wave passing through to take the next one)

and the British had used a similar leapfrog

technique in 1917. But in the new German doctrine

lead units were instructed to continue without

relief, for the doctrine considered it preferable

to maintain the attack and exhaust the lead unit,

rather than attempt a succession which would lose

time and impetus. Unfortunately, this method

resulted in severe losses for the lead units,

which would have an adverse effect on the 1918

German offensive. (6:41)





Although the divisions of World War I do not compare to


the heavy divisions of today in their mobility and


firepower, the problems they had with momentum and


sustainment were fundamentally no different, one just has to


use a larger map to discuss them. For the heavy forces of


today, covering great distances presents enormous challenges


both logistically and operationally. Not only must forces


cover these distances quickly, once in contact they must


seize the initiative from the enemy with each engagement and


maintain the offensive momentum until victory is achieved.


The lead combat units of the divisions are not the only ones


that must move these great distances. Their combat support


units, combat service support units, and reserves must cover


the same ground and at the same rate of movement.


Additionally, the support and follow-on units of the corps


also must move accordingly. Without well orchestrated


planning and synchronization, the entire corps may reach its


culminating point simultaneously, potentially even before


the battle is fully developed.


Based on our recent experience in Southwest Asia, much


has been said for dramatic improvements in logistics


systems. Quite obviously, many improvements must be made.


Desert Storm dramatically validated the lethality and range


of our heavy, combined-arms divisions and corps. Just as


dramatically it demonstrated the absolute limits of our


logistics systems to sustain those heavy forces. The


dangerous point, however, would be to conclude that we must


build a logistics system that can run as fast as an M1-A1


tank and that must keep that vehicle moving at its most


capable speed.


To build a family of logistics vehicles with such


capability, particularly in these times of declining


budgets, is likely to prove impossible. What is a more


realistic objective is to find ways to maintain and even


increase the momentum of the offensive without being


required to develop a means of support for the M1-A1


equipped units that is restrained only by the governors on


their turbine engines.


The convergence of opposing corps-size forces may take


several days of intense maneuver before main forces come


into contact. The extent of maneuver required for Airland


Operations presents a major challenge to combat units. As


the opposing force approaches, much more friendly-force


maneuver will likely occur than would be required for a


direct-line approach. Current and future intelligence


systems may dictate extensive lateral movement and maneuver


in addition to the general forward movement of the forces.


Soldiers and equipment must push very hard to move great


distances quickly and to avoid premature massing in order to


avoid targeting by enemy long-range, operational fires.


Combat support and combat service support units must support


rapid movement of large, heavy forces. Additionally, they


must conduct their own movement over the sane distances in


order to be able to provide responsive support during the


movement to contact and once the battle begins.


Increased distances mean increased fuel requirements,


increased scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, and


enormous efforts to keep the logistics line of


communications from becoming stretched too thinly.


Conceivably, "operational reach" could be attained prior to


"decisive contact." Without significant planning and


synchronization, the culminating point of thee corps may be


reached before the engagement point with the opposing force


main body. In that case, what was intended to be a movement


to contact to be followed by a hasty attack, instead becomes


a movement without contact followed by a hasty defense. The


initiative has thus been relinquished to the enemy.


Once on the offensive, the "clock" starts on the


operational commander's units. The drain on unit capability


due to the extreme distances, durations, required speed, and


difficulties of movement begins in earnest. Scheduled and


unscheduled maintenance become a major factor in reducing


available combat power. Hard-pushed equipment requires


significantly more maintenance and equipment failure rates




The corps area of operations in future conflicts will


be vastly larger than in the past. Combat forces already


enjoy a mobility that exceeds that of their support; the


future battlefield will aggravate this gap. In order to be


able to maintain support and sustain the momentum,


operational commanders will be forced to provision planned


pauses for their lead units. Failure to do so threatens


maintenance of combat power and retention of the initiative.


Historically, the enemy has thereby been allowed to conduct


counterattacks and/or improve his defenses. Whether planned


or not, such a pause in the offense should not compromise




A pause does not necessarily have to be recognized as


such by the enemy. The intent of the pause is to give


opportunity to committed friendly forces to rest, refuel,


and rearm for continued operations. A pause that allows the


enemy to do the same is, in effect, a hasty defense.


The only existing doctrinal solution to maintaining


offensive momentum is to pass the offensive to a follow-on


ground element. At the corps level, such operations involve


a monumental passage of lines, typically divisions passing


through divisions. In a high speed movement, this is


further complicated by the fact the relieving force has had


to maintain a rate of movement and sustainment virtually


equal to the force being relieved. What is missing in


current doctrine is an appreciation of the capability of


Army Aviation to provide a pause to committed ground


maneuver forces without a loss of momentum from the enemy's







Army Aviation elements from the Corps Combat Aviation


Brigade, attack, assault, and assault support units, can


quickly and easily bound over and move ahead of the ground


forces in contact. Such maneuver, properly planned, can


conceivably afford a pause for the ground maneuver forces of


eight to twelve hours. Incorporating battle handoff to the


Corps Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) on a cyclic basis, every


forty-eight hours, for instance, could theoretically extend


the ability of the corps to maintain offensive momentum


almost indefinitely.


What would traditionally have to be planned and


conducted as an operational pause could instead be planned


and conducted as an offensive relief. FM 100-5 states that:


"An offensive relief is conducted to pass fresh troops into


the attack in order to maintain offensive momentum. Such


reliefs are most common as the force enters the exploitation


or pursuit, but also may be necessary during the attack


itself if previously committed units have suffered so


severely that they are unable to reach their objectives.


Offensive reliefs may be conducted as reliefs in place, but


ideally are conducted without a significant pause in


offensive tempo." (4:128) The phrase, " . . . to pass fresh


troops into the attack in order to maintain offensive


momentum.", does not represent a simple operation. FM 100-


15, Corps Operations, defines a passage of lines as, " . . .


an operation in which a force moves forward or rearward


through another force's combat positions with the intention


of moving into or out of contact with the enemy.". It


further points out that, "a passage of lines is extremely


complex and involves a degree of risk." (5:7-15)


Army Aviation's existing capabilities, both


organizational and equipment, have yet to be optimized in


current doctrine. This is particularly true concerning Army


Aviation's ability to contribute to maintaining momentum,


most specifically with regard to depth. The existence of


poor road conditions, limited avenues of approach, and


periods of reduced visibility (darkness or poor weather)


generally contribute to the potential benefit of aviation


resources. Optimizing the capability of current resources


through better doctrine can serve to extend that doctrine's


contributions as future acquisitions are introduced. For


aviation systems, this means improved aircraft range,


weapons lethality, navigational accuracies and aids,


improved limited visibility systems, enhanced ballistic


tolerance, reductions in crew workload, and improved systems




Army Aviation doctrine recognizes the ability of


aviation forces to support offensive relief. FM 1-100, Army


Aviation in Combat Operations, states: "Aviation can support


offensive reliefs by conducting raids, feints, and


demonstrations to distract the enemy from these operations.


Attack and air reconnaissance assets can overwatch the


movement of both units and, if required, provide supporting


fires to assist the battle handover between forces." (1:3-




Army doctrine acknowledges the capability of aviation


units to operate as maneuver forces, to include operational


control of ground forces by the aviation commander. (3:2-4)


There is, however, no doctrine that suggests use of the CAB


as a means of maintaining the momentum of an offensive as


the primary offensive relief force in order to afford ground


units an operational pause. The Corps CAB can, in fact,


provide such an opportunity.


It is important to appreciate the fact that the Corps-


level CAB is the appropriate organization for providing an


operational pause for the divisions. Each Army division has


its own CAB, with organic attack and assault units. Each


Army Corps has its own CAB, as well. There are also five


CAB at echelons-above-corps. The importance of this


echelonment of CAB is germane to this discussion. Although


the division commander has an organic CAB, his aviation


battalions have most likely been engaged in extensive


combined-arms operations with the ground maneuver brigades


of the division and need an operational pause as well. The


unique structure of Army Aviation forces, with divisional,


corps level, and echelon-above-corps level Combat Aviation


Brigades is well validated in operations such as these.


The Corps Commander determines when an offensive relief


is required and who will conduct the relief. Existing


doctrine would have him look to one of his divisions, when


in fact, his Corps CAB is also a potent and viable option.


The Corps Combat Aviation Brigade of the future, the


first of which is currently being organized at Ft. Bragg, is


indeed a powerful organization. The brigade has 640


helicopters, with 216 attack aircraft (AH-64/RAH-66), 298


UH-60 (120 Medevac, 178 Assault), 108 assault support (CH-


47D), and 24 UH-60 (C2). This brigade is sub-divided into


three regimental-size organizations. It has two attack


regiments of three battalions each, and an aviation group


with three battalions of assault helicopters (UH-60) and


three battalions of cargo helicopters (CH-47D).


The doctrinal mission of a heavy attack battalion, of


which there are six in the Corps CAB, is to destroy at least


50% of the combat vehicles of a tank regiment or motorized


rifle regiment. Under optimal circumstances, the six


battalions could destroy half the combat Vehicles of two


motorized rifle or tank divisions. The three UH-60 assault


battalions could simultaneously lift nine rifle companies,


the preponderance of an infantry brigade's maneuver


companies. If augmented with two of the three CH-47D


battalions, a battalion of M-198 howitzers, the remaining


infantry companies of the infantry brigade, and sufficient


forward arming and refueling points (Class III and V) also


could be moved in the initial lift. Subsequent lifts by


these five battalions could quickly bring forward the


remaining vehicles and sufficient supplies for the infantry


brigade to enable it to conduct an eight to twelve hour




The Corps Commander can easily augment the combat power


of the Corps CAB with his Corps Artillery. The long-range


artillery organic to the Corps is capable of providing a


pause for the artillery battalions of the division being


relieved. This can be accomplished without a complex


physical passage of the two forces. The Multiple Launch


Rocket System battalions in the Corps can be moved to an


area just behind the division's brigades and still range


well forward. Self-propelled artillery battalions of the


Corps also can move into similar positions and provide fire


support for the CAB. This would allow the division's


artillery to fully stand down for the relief period.


Some might argue that this concept is already in


practice with the existence of the air assault division or


the armored cavalry regiment (ACR). Conceivably, either


organization could do a similar operation. There are


several potential problems with these options.


In the case of the air assault division, there is only


one such division in the Army's force structure; there are


currently four corps. The division has substantial


infantry, assault aircraft, and artillery but only two


battalions of attack helicopters. The division is not


ideally designed to conduct an attack against a mechanized


or armored corps, although it can if required. Conversely,


each corps commander has his own CAB. If he happens to have


been task organized with the air assault division, so much


the better. The unique capabilities of the division,


however, place it in great demand by each corps involved in


combat operations. (2:1-11) (3:D-10)


In the case of the armored cavalry regiment, there are


two active and one reserve ACR. Again, not everybody could


have one. More importantly, however, is the makeup of the


ACR. It has the preponderance of its combat power in its


mechanized forces. The ACR only has an equivalent attack


battalion and assault company in its aviation structure.


The regiment has 123 M1 tanks, 116 Bradley Fighting


Vehicles, and 24 155mm self-propelled howitzers. Although


it has significant combat power, the fact that the majority


of it is vehicular places it in a predicament similar to the


heavy division; it has to move great distances and then


conduct a passage of lines to effect an offensive relief.


Doctrinally, the ACR has significant mobile, antiarmor


capabilities and can effectively conduct covering force,


flank security, or counter-attack operations. (5:2-4)





The combat aviation brigade from the corps, augmented


with sufficient ground maneuver units, such as a mechanized


infantry task force or a light infantry battalion, or


battalions, from uncommitted reserve forces, plus corps


artillery support, is well capable and suited for providing


a planned offensive relief for division-size forces in


future armed conflict. Such a doctrine assures maintenance


of offensive momentum. It can serve as a vehicle for


planned operational pauses, avoidance of premature


culmination, and a resultant extension of the division's,


and thereby the corps' ability to sustain offensive


operations over a much greater time and space. Offensive


relief by the corps combat aviation brigade can be planned


and conducted without affording the enemy any respite from


the violence to which he is subjected.


Development and implementation of this doctrine can be


rapidly accomplished with no significant cost to the Army.


The required aviation forces and systems are organic to the


Corps of today and the planned future Corps. The supporting


artillery is also currently organic. Doctrine for the


individual attack, assault, and assault support aviation


battalions for their part of the battle is already a


reality. The CAB has sufficient command and control


headquarters and communications systems to conduct such


operations. The only missing part is a realization of the


existing potential of thee Corps CAB and a decision to


incorporate this potential into doctrine.





1. Department of the Army. Doctrinal Principles for Army


Aviation in Combat Operations, FM 1-100. Washington, 1989.


2. Department of the Army. Aviation Brigades, FM 1-111.


Washington, 1990.


3. Department of the Army. Division Operations, FM 71-100.


Washington, 1990.


4.                Department of the Army. Operations, FM 100-5.


Washington, 1986.


5.                Department of the Army. Corps Operations, FM 100-15.


Washington, 1989.


6.                Lupfer, Timothy T. "The Dynamics of Doctrine: The


Changes in German Tactical Doctrine During the First World


War." Leavenworth Papers No. 4, Ft. Leavenworth, KS, July




7. Silvasy Jr., Stephen, Major General, US Army. "Airland


Battle Future, The Tactical Battlefield." Military Review.


Ft Leavenworth, KS, February 1991.

Join the mailing list