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The Improved Direct Air Support Center
CSC 1992
Title:  The Improved Direct Air Support Center
Author:  Major Steven H. Mattos, United States Marine Corps
Thesis:  By examining the history of the Direct Air Support
Center, we can see how its role as the link between the
ground combat forces and Marine aviation will continue to be
a critical factor on the future battlefield.
Background:  This study will provide the reader with an
historic overview of the control of Marine aviation by the
Marine Air Support Squadron.  It traces the evolution of air
support control from its early beginnings during the "Small
wars" of the nineteen twenties and thirties, to the present
day developments towards small, highly capable integrated
command and control packages, for Low Intensity Conflict
contingency plans worldwide.  Utilizing the Improved Direct
Air Support Central (AN/TSQ-155) and the air/mobile Direct
Air Support Central (AN/UYQ-3A), the Marine Air Support
Squadron has developed an agency capable of providing the
air control functions, and capabilities that are crucial to
the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) commander for the
planning, and controlling of Marine aviation forces.
Thesis Statement:  By examining the history of the Direct
Air Support Center, we can see how its role as the link
between the ground combat forces and Marine aviation will
continue to be a critical factor on the future battlefield.
I.	Early history of close air support
	A.	Control of close air support missions
	B.	Marine Actions in "Small Wars" (1920-1939)
II.	World War II
	A.	Air Control systems
	B.	Development of Marine Air Control System
	C.	Marine Air Support Control Units (MASCU)
III.	Korean War
	A.	Marine Air Control Group (MACG)
	B.	5th Air Force Joint Operations control system
IV.	Development of Marine Air Support Squadron (MASS)
	A.	Direct Air Support Center (DASC)
	B.	Air Support Radar Team (ASRT)
	C.	MASS actions in Vietnam War (1965-1971)
V.	Improved Direct Air Support Center (AN/TSQ-155)
	A.	Increased Information flow requirements
	B.	Unit position information systems
	C.	Computer support/digitized maps
VI.	Future System requirements
	A.	Smaller command & control packages
	B.	High Mobility Downsized (HMD) DASC
     As the Marine Corps force structure is reduced, command
and control of Marine aviation will evolve from its present
massive, manpower intensive system, into a system dominated
by high speed computers and complex digital communications
links capable of providing the Marine Air-Ground Task Force
(MAGTF) greater control over its aviation assets.  By
examining the history of the Direct Air Support Center, we
can see how its role as the link between the ground combat
forces and Marine aviation will continue to be a critical
factor on the future battlefield.
     The capability to conduct successful tactical air
operations is essential to the execution of MAGTF
operations.  To this end, Marine Corps aviation was
developed to meet all the requirements of the landing
force.(7:par 1101)  These requirements call for a flexible
and responsive aviation combat element specifically tailored
to support the ground combat element's scheme of maneuver.
Together, these units become a balanced, self-sufficient,
cohesive organization composed of air and ground arms and
known as the Marine air-ground team.
     The use of Marine aviation in support of ground forces
dates back to World War I, where Marine aircraft provided
limited reconnaissance to ground forces.  As Alfred A.
Cunningham, the Marine Corps first aviator, remarked, "The
only excuse for aviation in any service is its usefulness in
assisting troops on the ground to successfully carry out
their operations. "(7:par 1102a)  This philosophy was
expanded upon after the war, in that doctrine and techniques
were developed as Marines fought in Haiti, Santo Domingo and
Nicaragua during the nineteen twenties and early thirties.
     The first documented case of Marine aviation providing
close air support to ground forces occurred on 10 June 1919.
A patrol from the 44th company, 3rd Provisional Marine
Regiment, while enroute to Guaybo Dulce, Dominican Republic,
was supported by Marine air when the plane dropped one bomb
on a group of bandits that was preparing to ambush the
patrol.(9:1)   Due to the lack of air to ground
communications, coordination between the airplane and ground
forces consisted of code panel signals to tell the pilot the
location of friendly troops, and a message pickup system
using poles and wire strung across a trail.  This method of
coordination proved fairly useful in breaking up enemy
ambushes, strong points, evacuation of wounded, and the
resupply of essential items.(4:13)  These efforts led to the
development of doctrine involving the coordination of close
air support and the ground force's tactical scheme of
maneuver.  Although the tactics and doctrine of close air
support was subsequently refined prior to World War II, the
Marine Corps entered the conflict without adequate air
control procedures due to the lack of a satisfactory air-
ground communications system.
     As World War II progressed in the Pacific and Europe,
two distinct air control systems evolved with two distinct
command relationships.  In the European theater, the Army
Air Force air control system was designed to support long
campaigns that covered immense operating areas, involving
huge armies and air forces.  Air support became "air
cooperation", with parallel chains of command extending back
to the theater commander.  Early in the war close air
support was controlled by Forward Air Controllers (FAC) in
airplanes.  This system of control was not popular due to
the lack of reliable air-ground communications, and the
constant threat of attack by German fighters.  The system
became more centralized with the creation of tactical bomb
lines and pre-planned missions.
     Air requests were habitually telephoned to
     division through channels, then to corps, through
     army, to the tactical air commander.  This system
     proved too slow for fast moving situations.. (4:14)
Because of the unresponsiveness of the system some air
commanders circumvented the bureaucratic procedures by
establishing close relationships between their staff and the
supported troops.  The support provided to General Patton's
army during its end run along the German left flank is a
classic example of the proper use of close air support.
During the operation, air controllers rode on the lead tanks
of each armored column, which was supported by a division of
fighter-bombers flying overhead in support.  The number of
destroyed German tanks and shattered roadblocks validated
the value of this type of air control.  The Navy-Marine
Corps system accomplished similar results, but operated
under different conditions.
     In the Pacific, most campaigns were amphibious
operations, characterized as comparatively brief,
intermittent, and extremely violent events.  Initially, the
Commander of the Amphibious Task Force (CATF) was
responsible for providing air support to the ground forces.
This control was exercised from the amphibious force
flagship by the Tactical Air Commander located in the Air
Control Center.  This close coordination of ground and air
action was improved, beginning with the Iwo Jima operation,
when control was shifted ashore to the Tactical Air Control
Center located at the Landing Force Headquarters.
     With the creation of the Tactical Air Control Center,
the Landing Force commander was now able to coordinate all
of his fire support systems (artillery, naval gunfire, and
air) from a central location.(1:6)  This centralized system
of fire support proved to be more responsive and flexible
than the Army's fire support system in Europe.  Initially,
all close air support missions were controlled by a master
controller in the Tactical Air Control Center.  As the war
progressed however, and in response to insistent demands
from ground unit commanders, actual control of close air
support aircraft was gradually shifted to forward air
controllers located with the forward ground elements.  This
change in procedures allowed the ground commander to employ
his aviation assets in the same manner in which he employed
his supporting artillery.  This type of control
characterized the policy of centralized command and
decentralized control, whereby the ground unit directs the
aircraft on to the specific target, with the Tactical Air
Commander still retaining the authority to shift his
available air power to accomplish the overall mission when
necessary.  To assist the Tactical Air Commander in
accomplishing this task, Marine Air Support Control Units
were formed.
     The Marine Air Support Control Unit organized on 21
October 1944, as a liaison group between the attacking
ground forces and supporting aircraft during the amphibious
operation, was originally designated the Provisional Air
Support Command.  Comprised of a Headquarters unit and four
Landing Force Air Support Control Units (LFASCU), the Marine
Air Support Control Unit reached its full potential during
the Okinawa campaign.  Air Liaison Parties (ALP), under the
control of Landing Force Air Support Control Units, were
assigned to combat units at the division, regiment, and
battalion levels.  The Air Liaison Parties provided the
ground commanders with the capability of requesting and
controlling close air support missions, as well as providing
expert advise on the proper employment of Marine
aviation. (1:8)
     The Provisional Air Support Command was disbanded
exactly six months after its inception and all personnel and
equipment were detached or transferred to Marine Air Support
Control Units, Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet.  After the
war, a joint Army-Navy board was formed by the War
Department to study the Army and Navy Air Support systems
and make recommendations for the establishment of
standardized procedures.(2:1)  The Board determined that
with the exception for terminology, the two systems were
very similar.  As for the Marine Corps, the Board
recommended that a Marine Air Control Group be formed for
each Marine Aircraft Wing.
     The post-war reorganization of Marine Air Support
Control Units created two Marine Air Control Groups (MACG)
consisting of Air Support Control, Air Defense Control and
Ground Control Intercept units.  This new organization was
based on the concept of "centralized command and
decentralized control", with one MACG in Fleet Marine
Forces, Atlantic (FMFLant), and one in Fleet Marine Forces
Pacific (FMFPac).
     As the Korean War unfolded, Marine Air Control Group-2
deployed with three units to the peninsula:  Marine Ground
Control Intercept Squadrons one and three, and Marine
Tactical Air Support Squadron (MTACS)-2 (formerly Landing
Force Air Support Control Unit).  The MTACS consisted of two
sections:  an air support section which deployed with the
ground combat unit, and an air defense section.
     While under the command of the Fifth Air Force Joint
Operations Center (JOC), Marine Air Control Group-2 was
forced to operate under the concept of "centralized command
and control", a procedure that proved to be unresponsive in
     Every air support request, regardless of priority,
     had to be channeled through the JOC control system
     which was riddled with delay and
     uncertainty.(6:17)  Records kept by the U.S. Navy
     and First Marine Aircraft Wing reflected delays of
     up to 80 minutes with an average of 60-70 percent
     of the requested missions never being
     flown. (6:135)
This lack of support would later fuel the controversy of
whether the Marine Corps should possess its own organic
aviation assets.  Although dissatisfied with the constraints
imposed by the Fifth Air Force JOC control system, MACG-2
was still able to provide remarkable close air support and
early warning assistance to the ground combat units.(3:4)
MACG-2 participated in operations in Pusan, Chosin
Reservoir, Inchon-Seoul, the East Central and Western Front,
and the armistice.
     The Korean War provided the newly established Marine
Air Command and Control System (MACCS) with the opportunity
to develop and test a number of new and innovative air
command and control doctrine, procedures, and new equipment.
As the war continued, the following organizations and air
control agencies emerged as equipment modifications and
enhancements were introduced into the fledgling MACCS
     o    During the Chosin Reservoir operation and
subsequent withdrawal, when terrain became a limiting factor
for adequate ground control, a Tactical Air Direction Center
(TADC) (forerunner of today's Airborne Direct Air Support
Center) was established airborne to control and coordinate
close air support operations.(10:1)
     o    During September 1951, the AN/MPQ-14, a ground-
controlled bombing system (predecessor of today's Air
Support Radar Team) was developed by the Marine Corps and
introduced into the Korean War.  By the summer of 1952, as
the system's reliability and accuracy improved, Fifth Air
Force approved its operational employment in a close air
support role. (5:62-63)
     During the twelve years between the Korean and Vietnam
Wars, the Marine Air Command and Control System (MACCS) made
significant changes in organization and technological
development.  The Marine Tactical Air Control Squadrons were
redesignated Marine Air Support Squadrons (MASS) in February
1954.  The Marine Air Support Squadron is comprised of a
Direct Air Support Center (DASC), and three Air Support
Radar Teams (ASRT).  With the mission of coordinating
assault support, close air support strikes, and air
reconnaissance missions with other fire support agencies,
the DASC co-locates with the senior ground combat element
Fire Support Coordination Center (FSCC) to ensure that air
support is responsive to the ground commander's needs.  To
accomplish this task, the MASS utilized the AN/TSQ-122
Direct Air Support Central.  The AN/TSQ-122 was a large
control system housed in a rigid fiberglass modular
structure.  To provide an echelon capability, the MASS also
operated and maintained the AN/UYQ-3 air/mobile DASC.  The
AN/UYQ-3 could operate in a modified KC-130 aircraft, as
well as on the back of a 2 1/2 ton truck.  Together, the
Marine Air Support Squadron was capable of supporting the
full range of MAGTFs, up to and including a Marine
Amphibious Force (MAF).
     In the early nineteen sixties, the Marine Corps
replaced the Air Support Radar Team (ASRT) AN/MPQ-14 radar
system with the next generation ground-bombing system--the
     In addition to providing the capability of day and
     night, all-weather precision control of aircraft,
     it [AN/TPQ-10] allowed for properly equipped
     aircraft to be controlled and ordnance released
     from the aircraft without the aid of the
     pilot. (1:12)
In the spring of 1965 units of the Marine Air Command and
Control System were deployed to Vietnam and provided air
support to ground forces until 1971.
     In April 1965, MASS-2 and MASS-3 deployed to the
Republic of Vietnam and provided Direct Air Support Centers
in support of ground combat units.  In addition, the Air
Support Radar Teams established an impressive record of
precision ground-controlled bombing.  From 1966-1971, MASS-3
Air Support Radar Teams controlled more than 38,010 AN/TPQ-
10 missions, directing more than 121,000 tons of ordnance on
56,753 targets.(10:1)  By the end of the war, the Direct Air
Support Centers and Air Support Radar Teams participated in
virtually every major Marine combat operation.  During the
twenty years following the Vietnam War, the Marine Air
Support Squadron underwent numerous organizational changes,
equipment enhancements and significant doctrinal growth.
     As the enemy threat to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force
(MAGTF) became increasingly sophisticated, the requirement
for a Direct Air Support Center (DASC) capable of providing
secure communications across the expanded battlefield and
from over the horizon (OTH) stimulated the development of
the AN/TSQ-155(V) Improved Direct Air Support Central
(IDASC) and the AN/UYQ-3A air/mobile Direct Air Support
Central.  With the added mobility of the IDASC and AN/UYQ-
3A, the Marine Air Support Squadron is now capable of
supporting separate MAGTF deployments simultaneously, as
well as different echelons (ie, Marine Expeditionary Unit,
Brigade, Force).
     The IDASC Product Improvement Program (PIP) will
provide lightweight, highly mobile shelters as well as the
capability to interface with, process, and manipulate data
from external command and control agencies.  When the IDASC
Product Improvement Program is completed in fiscal year
1995, the Direct Air Support Center will have the following
additional capabilities:
o    Increased communications capability to include single
and multi-channel radios and tactical wire systems
o    Capability to interface with multiple Digital
Communication Terminals (DCT), the Position Location
Reporting System (PLRS), and Global Positioning System (GPS)
o    The system will have facsimile, teletypewriter, and
high speed printer devices to receive Marine Tactical
Standard (MTS) and Message Text Format (MTF) messages
o    Self-contained, mobile communications suites that
provide the operator with access to secure communications
using both digital switched/switching systems
o    Computer work station support that can digitally
receive unit position information and graphically display
the information in near-real time(8:4-8)
     As the Marine Corps reduces in size over the next
decade, the Direct Air Support Center will be required to
become more expeditionary.  Concerns about the continued
reductions in strategic lift assets (airlift and sealift),
have prompted the Marine Corps to develop alternatives to
the present command and control system.  The High Mobility
Downsized (HMD) DASC system is one option designed to meet
this future requirement.
     The HMD DASC system will be housed in a shelter capable
of being mounted on a High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled
Vehicle (HMMWV).  One shelter with the associated equipment
will be designated a system.  Using the modular approach, up
to three systems may be joined to increase the capacity when
supporting up to a Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) or
larger.  The three system module will be the optimal system,
however, the capability of using varying numbers of systems
to compose a Direct Air Support Center, increases
flexibility for supporting various sized MAGTFs.(11:1O-11)
     In conjunction with the modified AN/UYQ-3A airborne
DASC, the Marine Air Support Squadron will be able to
support all future Marine Corps contingency plans worldwide.
It is estimated that the HMD DASC will require less than
half the airlift to support a MEB sized contingency
operation as the present IDASC (AN/TSQ-155).
     On the fluid, fast paced battlefield of tomorrow
     we will more than likely encounter a new
     generation of advanced missile/munitions systems
     to include high power microwave (HPM), directed
     energy, and enhanced kinetic energy.  These
     systems will have greater mobility, range, and
     lethality while proving more difficult for the
     MAGTF to detect, track, and destroy.(1:31)
As the critical link between the ground combat forces and
Marine aviation, the Direct Air Support Center will have a
direct influence on the success or failure of future combat
operations.  In the equation of war, the force with the most
effective command and control system will have a distinct
advantage.  The "threat" still remains and because of that,
the Marine Corps must continue to encourage research and
development for advanced command and control systems.
1.	Bowling, William L., LtCol., USMC.  "Marine Air Command
and Control Systems:  Past, Present and Future Role in Support of
Marine Air-Ground Task Force Operations in Low Intensity Conflict."
Study project.  Carlisle Barracks, PA:  U.S. Army War College, 1990.
2.	Joint Army-Navy Board, Washington, D.C.  Report of Joint
Army-Navy Board to Standardize Air Support Procedures, December
15, 1945.
3.	Martin, Richard J., Jr., Maj., USMC.  "The Marine Air Command
and Control System:  A Historical Perspective."  Staff study.  J.C.
Breckinridge Library, Marine Corps Development and Education
Command, Quantico, VA., April 3, 1987.
4.	Megee, Vernon E., MajGen., USMC.  "Tactical Air Support of
Ground Forces"  Marine Corps Gazette 39 (December 1955), 13.
5.	Meid, Pat, LtCol., USMCR and James M. Yingling, Maj., USMC.
Operations in West Korea--U.S. Marine Operations in Korea, 1950-1953.
Vol V.  Washington:  Historical Branch, G-3 Division, Headquarters, U.S.
Marine Corps, 1962, pp. 62-63.
6.	Montross, Lynn, et al..  The East--Central Front--U.S. Marine
Operations in Korea, 1950-1953.  Vol. IV.  Washington: Historical Branch,
G-3 Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1962, p.17.
7.	U.S. Department of the Navy.  Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps.
Marine Aviation, Fleet Marine Force Manual 5-1.  Washington, D.C.:
Government Printing Office, 1979.
8.	U.S. Marine Corps.  Marine Corps Combat Development Command.
Required Operational Capability (ROC), Revised, For the Direct Air Support
Central (DASC), Draft, CCC 35.3.1B.
9.	U.S. Marine Corps.  Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps.  Historical
Division.  Reference service log requesting date of first close air support
mission, August 3, 1950.
10.	U.S. Marine Corps.  Marine Corps Historical Center.  Unit Files,
Lineages and Honors (MASS).  Washington, D.C.
11.	U.S. Marine Corps.  Marine Corps Systems Command. System
Specification for the U.S. Marine Corps High Mobility Downsized (HMD)
Direct Air Support Central  DASC.  March 2, 1992.

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