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A Technique for the Employment
of Close Air Support (CAS)

by CPT Samuel R. White Jr., Fire Support Division Observer/Controller

The availability of Close Air Support (CAS) to the maneuver brigade offers the commander an extremely effective means to project combat power beyond the range of direct fire weapon systems. CAS, together with field artillery, electronic warfare, and engineer effort, forms the backbone of the brigade's deep operations: the portion of the battlefield framework which will set favorable conditions for the decisive close fight. CAS affords the brigade significant flexibility and lethality in conducting deep operations which, when used in concert with other deep attack systems, can have a devastating effect on the enemy. Sadly, the full effects of CAS are rarely achieved during a campaign at the National Training Center (NTC).

Throughout a campaign, a brigade's efforts to employ CAS are routinely thwarted by a number of factors: multiple target grids generated from a variety of sources, ineffective airspace deconfliction, lack of SEAD (both lethal and non-lethal), and lack of qualified air controllers at the right place and at the right time. Gradually, integrating CAS into the operation becomes viewed as "too hard to do." In actuality, CAS is indeed too hard to do with little or no prior planning. Generally, the brigade intends to employ CAS but does not plan to employ CAS. The transition from intent to planning is obviously the key to success. Unfortunately, precious few tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) exist to assist the brigade in planning for CAS employment. This article will explain a step-by-step TTP for CAS employment developed at the NTC.

STEP 1: The targeting team determines where CAS is to be targeted during the operation. The analysis begins during course-of-action (COA) development, continues through hasty wargaming, and is synchronized during the deliberate wargaming session. It is not within the scope of this article to cover the wargaming session (CGSC Student Text (ST) 101-5 outlines the process in detail). Suffice it to say that at the conclusion of the deliberate wargame, when all friendly courses of action have been war-gamed against all enemy courses of action, and branches and sequels have been identified, there could be as many as 15 CAS targets identified across the area of operations.

STEP 2: Graphically portray the potential CAS targets on an overlay. A standard target symbol can be used, although this target symbol must be distinguishable from an artillery target. A different color (blue for example) may be used, or, CAS may be annotated in the upper right quadrant of the target symbol.(Figure 1)

figure 1

FIGURE 1 - CAS TARGET (STEP 2)


STEP 3: Construct a CAS target box (CTB) around the CAS target. The CTB is the area around the target in which the particular enemy formation could be found based on the one course of action for which the target was developed. Although we anticipate engaging the enemy at the CAS target, the CTB will define the area within which 1) we can expect to find the enemy, 2) we have the capability to engage the enemy, and, 3) we can achieve the desired effects on the enemy. Each CAS target will have only one CTB. The CTBs should be numbered on the overlay for reference. (Figure 2)

figure 2

FIGURE 2 - CAS TARGET BOX(STEP 3)


STEP 4: Graphically portray the triggers or decision points for each CTB on the overlay. The trigger for each CTB should not be confused with the trigger to bring CAS on station; the trigger to bring CAS on station should be included in the brigade synchronization matrix and is computed based on how long it will take to get aircraft to the IP. For example: Aircraft will be on strip alert from 0600 to 0800; it takes 15 minutes for an aircraft on strip alert to get into the air; F16s take 30 minutes to fly from the airfield to the IP resulting in a total of 45 minutes to get aircraft on station. The S2 determines that based on the enemy doctrinal rate of march that a division NAI needs to be established on the enemy avenues of approach 45 minutes from the CTB trigger. The CTB trigger or decision point is the point the enemy formation reaches which activates a particular CTB for engagement of that formation. The trigger or decision point must be far enough from the CTB to allow sufficient time to execute the variety of events associated with the attack into the CTB (e.g., 9-line mission brief, SEAD, flight time from the IP, etc.). These triggers or decision points should be numbered to correspond with the CTB. The trigger or decision point should also be included on the fire support synchronization matrix (or scheme of fire support worksheet), and the brigade decision support matrix/template (DSM/DST) or synchronization matrix. In the following example, the brigade has determined that it will engage the enemy in CTB5; they will shoot a btry 3 HE at a known SA 14 site as SEAD for the aircraft and mark the target with a ground burst illumination round, and it will take the aircraft 2 minutes to get from the IP to the target.

H Hour - CAS attacks target.
H-30 sec - Marking round on target/last round of SEAD impacts.
H-2 min - Aircraft depart IP.
H-3 min - Begin SEAD.
H-5 min - Time Back to aircraft/FA bn.
H-7 min - 9-line briefing to aircraft.
Enemy is moving at a rate of 1 Km every 3 minutes. Trigger needs to be 2.3 Km from target.

figure 3

FIGURE 3 - TRIGGER POINTS (STEP 4)

STEP 4 is the final step in construction of the CAS overlay. It provides the framework for the CAS planning. An example of a completed CAS overlay is shown in figure 4.

figure 4

FIGURE 4 - COMPLETED CAS OVERLAY

STEP 5: Construct CTB CARDs for each CTB. CTB CARDs are 5X8 cards which contain vital information regarding a CAS mission against a specific target at a specific CTB. A separate CTB CARD should be made for each CTB. The CTB CARD is the tool for the detailed planning of CAS. It serves as the planning checklist for a particular CAS engagement. The obvious benefit is that we will have addressed the details during the planning process and will not be forced to figure out ACAs, SEAD, control, and the like during the execution of the mission. The CTB CARDS would be disseminated to all fire support elements and the artillery battalion. The line number/row number reference system permits efficient updates, either during planning, preparation, or execution (e.g., change line 3b of CTB CARD No. 1 from DS Battalion, 1 round DPICM to DS Battalion, 1 round HE/VT). An example of a CTB CARD with a legend explaining line entries is shown in figure 6. STEPS 1 through 5 outline a planning technique for employment of CAS. In execution, these tools are used to bring CAS to bear on the battlefield, with minimum confusion and delay. Figure 5 depicts a completed CTB CARD for a CTB in figure 1. In this example, this card is developed for engagement of the southern MRB of an attacking MRR in CTB 5. Thus, when the northern MRB is acquired at trigger 5, the fire support officer announces that CTB 5 is activated and all fire supporters simply refer to CTB CARD #5 for all of the coordinating data. The controlling tactical air control party (TACP) (RAVEN 14) knows he will control, the FSE, IEWSO and FDC know the ACA and intent for SEAD, and the 9-line CAS briefing can be completed by extracting the data from the card. Again, if there are any changes or modifications, the line/row references would be used to quickly update those concerned.

This article has explored a TTP for rapidly employing CAS on the battlefield. Certainly there are others. Regardless of the technique used, thorough planning is the only way to ensure success. CAS overlays and CTB CARDs offer one way to systematically walk through the planning process, and serve as a checklist for the planners. As an additional benefit, the CTB CARDs truly are planning documents that can be used during execution.

TRIGGER CTB CARD # 5
LINE
A
B
1
TARGET GRID NK275135
TARGET ALT 2,500 FT
TARGET DESCRIPTION SOUTHERN MRB
MOVING EAST
2
IP YANKEE HILLTOP NK5515TIME - IP TO TGT 2 MIN 15 SEC
3
SEAD TGT: 2S6 NK275168
NON-LETHAL: 56TH MI JAM MRB
CMD NET
VOLUME BN 1 RD HE, VT
4
ACA BLUECONTROL RAVEN 14 NK295 105
ALTERNATE: RAVEN 16 NK213116
5
INGRESS ROUTE EAGLEEGRESS ROUTE SPARROW
6
EFFECTS DESTROY 3 CMBT VEHSMARKING COLT3 NK295105 LASER SPOT


TRIGGER CTB CARD # __________
LINE
A
B
1
TARGET GRID __________
TARGET ALT __________
TARGET DESCRIPTION __________
2
IP __________TIME - IP TO TGT __________
3
SEAD TGT __________
NON-LETHAL __________
VOLUME __________
4
ACA __________CONTROL __________
ALTERNATE: __________
5
INGRESS __________EGRESS __________
6
EFFECTS __________MARKING __________
Legend

Trigger: The enemy formation and location which will cause us to employ CAS into the CTB. This trigger must be located far enough from the CTB to allow sufficient time to set the conditions for CAS (ACA, SEAD, etc.). The trigger will also alert us as to which CTB the enemy is approaching. If the trigger is located at a point that the enemy commander has more than one option in his route (i.e., a road intersection where he can go northeast or southwest), the trigger becomes a decision point for us.
CTB CARD #: The CTB where CAS will be employed against the enemy formation in line 1B.
LINE 1A: UTM grid and altitude in feet above mean sea level to the CAS target.
LINE 1B: The enemy formation and disposition (moving, dug-in, etc.) that CAS will attack.
LINE 2A: Initial Point. A well-defined point, easily distinguishable visually and/or electronically, that is used as a starting point for the aircraft in its attack against the target.
LINE 2B: The time, in minutes and seconds, that the aircraft will take to fly from the IP to the target. This time will vary significantly by type of aircraft. This time is important in the planning of SEAD.
LINE 3A: UTM grid for planned SEAD. This grid may be refined as intelligence information is gathered. If artillery is providing the SEAD, include the target number. If another system is providing SEAD (Army aviation, Air Force, etc.) indicate the system. If nonlethal SEAD is planned (jamming, AEW, etc.) indicate the system and effects.
LINE 3B: The volume of fire/ordinance and delivery system for lethal SEAD.
LINE 4A: The airspace coordination area that is planned for this particular CTB. If a code name is used, indicate the code name. Include all grids and minimum and maximum altitudes if appropriate. If time separation is to be used, indicate this on the card.
LINE 4B: The call sign and location of individual/team who will have final control of the aircraft during the attack. Include the backup controller as well.
LINE 5A: The ingress route for the aircraft for this attack.
LINE 5B: The egress or exit route for the aircraft following the attack.
LINE 6A: The effects desired on the target from this attack.
LINE 6B: The method of marking the target that will be used (white phosphorus, laser spot, etc.). If laser spot is to be used, indicate who will provide the spot (COLT, OH-58D, etc.)



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