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Friendly Fire On Today's Battlefield

Friendly Fire On Today's Battlefield

 

CSC 1992

 

SUBJECT AREA Warfighting

 

 

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

Title: Friendly Fire on Today's Battlefield

 

Author: Major A.C. Koehler, United States Army

 

Thesis: U.S. armed forces lack an adequate capability to identify

friendly vehicles on the battlefield; however, through advances in

technology and training, this problem can be reduced.

 

Background: During America's most recent conflict in the Persian Gulf,

highly trained forces using advanced weapon systems, defeated a

numerically superior enemy. A less desirable result, however, was a

higher percentage of friendly fire casualties (fratricide) by U.S. forces

than ever before. The "fog of war" is present on every battlefield. Fear

and confusion cannot be eliminated. Fratricide will continue to occur in

battle. However, as technology enables forces to engage targets beyond

their capability to recognize friend from foe, the problem of

ground-to-ground fratricide becomes more prevalent. During Desert Storm,

more than 75% of the fratricide casualties occurred in ground-to-ground

engagements. Also, fratricide accounted for 77% of the U.S. armored

vehicles damaged in battle. Fratricide will not be eliminated but it can

be reduced through advances in technology and training. Misidentification

was the major cause of fratricide in Desert Storm. Identification of

targets was difficult because of the fast-moving battlefield, covering

vast distances during limited visibility. Positive identification of

friendly vehicles on the battlefield will assist in reducing fratricide.

The key to this is in technology and training. Pursuing advancements in

technology and modifications in training, fratricide can be significantly

reduced. Technology is currently available to provide ground forces with

an Identification-Friend-or-Foe (IFF) capability. Also, laser technology

can provide a similar IFF capability. In conjunction with this

technology, realistic training, such as that conducted at the Army's

Combat Training Centers (CTCs), would provide a unit the best opportunity

to reduce the incidence of fratricide in the next conflict.

 

Conclusion: We cannot hope to eliminate fratricide as a problem in modern

war, however, through advances in technology coupled with modifications in

training, we will be able to reduce the likelihood of its occurring.

Developing the capability to identify friendly vehicles in battle will

bring about a reduction of fratricide.

 

FRIENDLY FIRE ON TODAY'S BATTLEFIELD

 

OUTLINE

 

Thesis Statement. U.S. armed forces lack an adequate capability to

 

identify friendly vehicles on the battlefield; however, through advances

 

in technology and training, this problem can be reduced.

 

I. Fratricide before and during Desert Storm

 

A. Fratricide rates by type

 

B. Accountability

 

II. Causes of fratricide

 

A. Misidentification

 

B. Lack of coordination

 

C. Disorientation and confusion

 

III. Effects of fratricide

 

A. Restrictive rules of engagement

 

B. Lowered troop morale

 

C. Lack of confidence in the supporting arms

 

D. Personalization

 

IV. Solutions to reduce fratricide - technology coupled with training

 

A. Technology

1. IFF transponders

2. Laser warning receivers

3. Electronic vehicle recognition

4. GPS

B. Training - Combat Training Centers (CTCs)

 

V. Fratricide and the future

 

A. Training is the near term solution

 

B. Technology is a far term solution

 

 

FRIENDLY FIRE ON TODAY'S BATTLEFIELD

 

 

The engagement of friendly forces by friendly fire has become a

 

significant problem during this century. Large and highly mobile forces,

 

vast battlefields, and weapons of greatly increased range, lethality and

 

complexity has contributed to the increase in friendly fire casualties

 

(fratricide) since World War I. During America's most recent conflict in

 

the Persian Gulf, highly trained forces using advanced weapon systems,

 

defeated a numerically superior enemy. A less desirable result, however,

 

was a higher percentage of fratricide by U.S. forces than ever before.

 

The "fog of war" is present on every battlefield. Fear and

 

confusion cannot be eliminated. Fratricide will continue to occur in battle.

 

However, as technology enables forces to engage targets beyond their

 

capability to recognize friend from foe, the problem of ground-to-ground

 

fratricide becomes more prevalent. During Desert Storm, more than 75% of

 

the friendly fire casualties occurred in ground-to-ground engagements.

 

Also, fratricide accounted for 77% of the Ml Abrams tanks and M2/3 Bradley

 

fighting vehicles damaged in battle. (5:4) U.S. forces lack an adequate

 

capability to identify friendly vehicles on the battlefield; however,

 

through advances in technology and training, this problem can be reduced.

 

 

THE PROBLEM

 

In each of America's wars, especially those of the twentieth century,

 

a significant number of soldiers has been killed as the result of friendly

 

fire. The percentages of casualties resulting from friendly fire from

 

World War II through Vietnam varies from 1.5% to 2.85%. Friendly fire

 

from aircraft accounted for the largest number of casualties, followed by

 

artillery and ground fire. (8:xii) In contrast, Desert Storm's 17.4%

 

fratricide rate was chiefly the result of ground fire. (10:1-2)

 

 

Friendly Fire Incidents by Type

 

Conflict Air Artillery Ground Antiaircraft

 

WWII, Korea

& Vietnam (3:104) 37% 36% 22% 5%

 

Desert Storm (10:3-5) 33%* 4% 59% 4%*

 

*incidents occurred prior to start of ground war

 

 

Accountibility of fratricide incidents was improved during Desert

 

Storm as compared to previous wars. For example, the M1 Abrams tank fires

 

depleted uranium rounds. These rounds leave slight traces of

 

radioactivity on the vehicles they hit and can be detected by radiation

 

measuring devices. Since only U.S. forces fire this type ammunition,

 

investigators can easily identify friendly fire incidents involving the M1

 

tank. Also, rotary and fixed wing aircraft video recorders confirmed

 

situations where friendly fire was suspected. One such video recording

 

aired on national television showed a U.S AH-64 Apache helicopter firing

 

Hellfire missiles at two armored vehicles. The recording included the

 

radio transmissions between the pilot and ground commander. Immediately

 

after both vehicles were destroyed, the ground commander told the pilot to

 

cease firing. The Hellfire missles had hit his unit's Bradley fighting

 

vehicles.

 

 

THE CAUSES

Causes of Fratricide

 

Conflict Misidentification Coordination Misc/Unknown

 

WWII, Korea

& Vietnam (8:104) 26% 45% 29%

 

Desert Storm (9:1-2) 39% 29% 32%

 

 

Identification of friend or foe was difficult for many reasons

 

During Desert Storm. The Department of Defense News Release describes some of

 

those reasons:

 

A combination of featureless desert terrain; large, complex and

fast-moving formations; fighting in rain, darkness or low

visiblility; and the ability to engage targets from long distances

were contributing factors in the 28 friendly fire incidents. Of

note, these same factors also contributed to our forces achieving

their victory more rapidly, thereby keeping coalition casualties

to a minimum. (10:1)

 

Misidentification of friendly vehicles for enemy was a major cause

 

Of fratricide in Desert Storm. Most ground-to-ground incidents occurred when

 

M1 tank crews mistakenly identified U.S. vehicles as Iraqi targets. In

 

most cases this occurred while using thermal sights in reduced visibility

 

over long distances. In battle an unidentified vehicle seen through a

 

thermal viewer, may be an enemy tank or it may be friendly. The man who

 

fires the first shot is probably the one who's going to live. It's a

 

difficult decision for the young soldier in that situation. (5:6)

 

Lack of coordination between units is another cause of fratricide.

 

In an incident during Desert Storm, one unit engaged another across unit

 

boundaries. These units had separate radio nets and recognition signals.

 

The unit receiving fire tried to radio a cease fire, but did not know the

 

proper frequency and did not know the other unit's recognition signal.

 

The result was one dead and one wounded. (2:A26) In another incident, an

 

infantry battalion was in an engagement with Iraqi forces when a U.S. tank

 

company from another sector began firing. Leaders in the infantry unit

 

said that tank rounds began coming from everywhere. Two Bradley vehicles

 

were hit resulting in several casualties. (13:3) The importance of

 

adjacent unit coordination is well understood. But even if this

 

coordination fails to occur, the ability to distinguish friendly from

 

enemy could have prevented fratricide in these cases.

 

Staying oriented on the battlefield is critical to a unit's survival.

 

Most units had the Global Positioning System (CPS) that could pinpoint

 

their position accurately. This system was a key reason why artillery did

 

not account for a larger percentage of the fratricide incidents.

 

Artillery units and the units they supported had good fixes on their own

 

positions. However, when two armored vehicles were engaged with Iraqi

 

forces on a rainy, windy night, they became misoriented and maneuvered

 

behind enemy vehicles. Both vehicles were hit by friendly fire resulting

 

in several casualties. (14:F7) GPS could not have helped them in this

 

case. The disorientation and confusion in the fog of battle will always

 

be present; however, if U.S. forces had a capability to identify friend

 

from foe, fewer fratricide incidents would occur.

 

 

THE EFFECTS

 

 

The effects of fratricide on units are significant. During Desert

 

Storm, restrictive rules of engagements (ROE) were imposed by some units

 

after incidents of friendly fire. Forces were not to fire at targets

 

unless they were positively identified as enemy. One unit went so far as

 

to restrict firing without their commander's approval, even if they were

 

fired upon. (13:11) These measures would reduce the incident of friendly

 

fire, but could increase the chances of casualties from hostile fire.

 

Other effects of fratricide are lowered troop morale and lack of

 

confidence in using close air support (CAS). One soldier stated that

 

their unit was reluctant to call for USAF A-10 and Army AH-64 helicopter

 

CAS after an air-to-ground fratricide incident with his unit. After a

 

Bradley vehicle was destroyed in a ground-to-ground incident, a soldier

 

said not only did he have to worry about the Iraqi's tanks, but also the

 

American M1's too. (12:4)

 

Another effect of fraticide on the modern battlefield is

 

personalization. There has been more newspaper and TV coverage of

 

fratricide incidents during Desert Storm than during any previous war.

 

The commander who fired the Hellfire missiles from his AH-64 helicopter

 

mentioned earlier was relieved of his battalion command. His appearance

 

on TV's 60 Minutes exemplifies the personalization of fratricide today.

 

In previous wars, fratricide was an anonymous event. Responsible units

 

may have been identified, but individuals were not named publicly.

 

Another incident was in the headlines of the Washington Post. This

 

article about a ground-to-ground fratricide incident interviewed the

 

commander of the firing unit and the casualty's next-of-kin. The military

 

can expect similar scrutiny by the media in future armed conflicts.

 

 

THE SOLUTIONS

 

 

Positive identification of friendly vehicles on the battlefield will

 

assist in reducing fratricide. The key to this is in technology and

 

training. Pursuing advancements in technology and modifications in

 

training, fratricide can be significantly reduced. The challenge to

 

pursuing technology and training will be difficult because of reductions

 

in defense spending. Funds must be made available so that fratricide can

 

be minimized in future conflicts.

 

Technology has the most potential for significantly reducing

 

fratricide by assisting our armed forces in identifying friendly vehicles

 

on the battlefield. Equipping vehicles with transponders, similar to ones

 

already employed on U.S. aircraft, will be an effective means of reducing

 

ground-to-ground fratricide between combat vehicles. Passive

 

Identification-Friend-or-Foe (IFF) transponders emit an identification

 

signal when queried by other transponders. (5:6) This technology has

 

already been developed; however it is expensive. A cost-effective IFF

 

system to achieve improved identification procedures is needed.

 

Another IFF system involves laser technology. By equipping vehicles

 

with laser warning receivers, which will detect that you are being lased

 

by a designator or a range finder, you will know that someone is targeting

 

you. Many of our armored vehicles already have laser designators and

 

range finders. If you receive a laser bean on a frequency that's

 

friendly, you can respond back that you are friendly. This is an

 

off-the-shelf technology that is being examined by defense contractors

 

today. (1:B14)

 

Electronic vehicle recognition is another IFF system being examined.

 

This is a concept of querying a target electronically or like radar

 

"paint" the target with beams or pulses. The image or signature that is

 

depicted of the target is recognized by the system's memory. This memory

 

or signature file identifies the target as a T-72 tank, M1 Abrams, etc.

 

This signature file would contain images of known enemy and friendly

 

combat vehicles and could recognize what the sensor sees. (1:B20)

 

The military will fight in combat the way it has trained in

 

peacetime. Fort Irwin's National Training Center (NTC), Fort Chaffee's

 

Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC), and Germany's Combat Maneuver

 

Training Center (CMTC) provide the military with realistic training during

 

peacetime. Units receive detailed critiques or After Action Reviews upon

 

the completion of each mission. Fratricide is played at these training

 

centers, and statistics are briefed at the After Action Reviews.

 

Continued emphasis needs to be placed on fratricide and fighting at night.

 

Situations and the lessons learned from the Persian Gulf are being

 

incorporated into training to derive the maximum benefit possible from our

 

recent wartime experiences. (9:12)

 

As was stated earlier, misidentification of friendly vehicles for

 

enemy was a major cause of fratricide in Desert Storm. If combat vehicles

 

were equipped with an IFF system, ground-to-ground vehicle fratricide in

 

this environment could be reduced. Allied forces took steps to reduce

 

daytime fratricide through the use of vehicle markings and colored panals;

 

however, this was not effective during periods of limited visibility.

 

Some IFF systems provide an all-weather, day and night capability. (9:11)

 

Lack of coordination between units is another cause of fratricide.

 

Emphasis in training on adjacent unit coordination and use of radio nets

 

and recognition signals would help in this situation. Also, an IFF system

 

will help soldiers to identify friendly vehicles and reduce the chances of

 

fratricide occurring even if this coordination fails to happen.

 

Staying oriented on the battlefield is critical to a unit's ability

 

to accomplish its mission and survive. Employment of GPS on more combat

 

vehicles will help units remain oriented and minimize the chance of them

 

inadvertently crossing into another unit's area of responsibility. This

 

advanced technology helps to reduce the likelihood of fratricide

 

occurring.

 

 

 

CONCLUSION

 

 

As much potential as technology has in reducing the fratricide

 

problem, it is unlikely that we will see anything new in the near term.

 

The time and costs involved in developing, testing, manufacturing, and

 

fielding any IFF system are significant. However, training is available

 

to the commander now. If we went to war tomorrow, there would be no

 

sophisticated IFF devices to strap onto vehicles. Yet the smart,

 

realistic training that can be conducted today to improve the unit's

 

performance and survival is available and must be maximized.

 

The ranges and lethality of present day weapon systems have increased

 

by leaps and bounds, however, systems to improve identification of enemy

 

targets has not. If our tanks can destroy a target more than two miles

 

away with pinpoint accuracy, but we cannot be sure if it is friend or foe,

 

it's time we acquire a system to assist in identification. As I stated

 

earlier, technology exists to improve this identification. When and how

 

we will see it integrated into our armed forces is the question.

 

What is the threat for the United States? Will the next battlefield

 

be back in a large, vast desert environment? If not, do we need to spend

 

millions upon millions of dollars to equip combat vehicles and weapon

 

systems with hi-tech anti-fratricide devices? If we deploy to fight in

 

ensely vegetated jungles, the big dollars spent equipping armored vehicles

 

with these devices will have been wasted. The problem is that no one can

 

predict the next conflict. The armed forces must prepare for all

 

contingencies. We must develop anti-fratricide and IFF systems now.

 

The Department of Defense has been aggressive in responding to

 

fratricide issues. The Army has a leading role in this joint effort,

 

specifically focusing on positive combat identification. On 30 May 1991,

 

a Combat Identification Task Force was established by the Army and

 

includes representatives from the other services. The Army's position on

 

fratricide is that it "cannot accept casualties that can be prevented by

 

our own actions to improve combat identification." (1:A1) We must ensure

 

that this effort does not diminish in the future. We have the best

 

war-fighting equipment available. Let's provide our armed forces with the

 

best combat identification capability available.

 

Protecting his soldiers lives will always be a battlefield

 

commander's priority; however, we cannot hope to eliminate fratricide as a

 

problem in modern war. Through advances in technology coupled with

 

modifications in training, we will be able to reduce the likelihood of its

 

occurring. Developing the capability to identify friendly vehicles in

 

battle will bring about a reduction of fratricide.

 

 

Bibliography

 

1. Combat Identification Program Interim Report. Combat Identification

Task Force, 11 December 1991.

 

2. Gellman, Barton. "Friendly Fire," The Washington Post, 20 October 1991,

Section A, p. 1.

 

3. Hackworth, David H. "Killed by Their Comrades." Newsweek, 13 November 1991, pp. 45-46.

 

4. Lloyd, A.M., COL, USMC. "Fear of Fratricide: Air Support," Marine Corps

Lessons Learned System, #32269-81178 (05108), 22 March 1991.

 

5. Naylor, Sean D. "Friendly Fire: The Reckoning." Army Times, 26 August 1991, pp. 4-6.

 

6. Powell, Stewart M. "Friendly Fire." Air Force Magazine, 12 (December 1991), 58-63.

 

7. Seigle, Greg. "No `Magic Shield."' Army Times, 23 December 1991, p. 3.

 

8. Shrader, Charles R., LTC, USA. Amicicide: The Problem of Friendly Fire in Modern War. Fort Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, December 1982.

 

9. U.S. Department of Defense. Conduct of the Persian Gulf Conflict, Volume III, Appendix M, Pursuant to Title V of Public Law 102-25, 13 January 1992.

 

10. U.S. Department of Defense. Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), News Release No. 504-91, Military Probes Friendly Fire Incidents, 13 August 1991.

 

11. Van Voorst, Bruce. "They Didn't Have to Die." Time, 26 August 1991, p. 34.

 

12. Vogel, Steve. "Friendly Fire: Numbness, Chills Strike Witnesses." Army Times, 26 August 1991, p. 4.

 

13. Vogel, Steve. "Friendly Fire: VII Corps Soldiers Describe Incidents." Army Times, 19 August 1991, pp. 3-4.

 

14. Vogel, Steve. "We Have Met the Enemy and It Was Us," The Washington Post, 9 February 1992, Section F, p. 1.

 

15. Wiltse, Jeffrey S. "Training to Prevent Fratricide." Armor, 4 (July-August 1991), 46-48.



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