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Development of the Brigade Scheme of Fire Support

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

Recent NTC Quarterly Fire Support Trends (Brigade)

1. Fire Support rehearsals that are conducted do not meet the need of the brigade in ensuring the fire support plan is understood and synchronized.

2. The effects that fire support is to achieve are rarely addressed in detail. The method that brigades employ to determine effects do not result in missions for fire support that will ensure success for the brigade.

3. The brigade deep fight quickly becomes ineffective after the first deep engagement of the enemy.

4. The transition of the fire support fight from deep to close to rear either does not take place at all, or takes place at a time and place that are unplanned.

5. Close Air Support (CAS) is not effectively integrated into the brigade fire support plan.

6. Staff supervision of the brigade fire support plan is not conducted with a keen eye toward ensuring subordinate organizations are planning and preparing along a course that will result in success for the brigade.


A review of recent quarterly fire support trends from the National Training Center (NTC) (figure 1) would seem to indicate a host of unrelated issues that would, more than likely, appear to have a host of unrelated fixes. Each of these trends is unique in its impact upon the mission, but they all share a common beginning: the lack of a well-developed, completely disseminated, and absolutely understood scheme of fire support.

A Typical Scenario

Generally, a typical scenario at the NTC is as follows:

1. The brigade fire support officer (FSO) issues his fire support annex with the brigade operations order (OPORD).

2. As the subordinate FSOs and the artillery battalion staff begin their planning process, they are confused regarding the scheme of fire support, and the sequencing of fire support events. They begin developing their plans with incomplete information and the gap between the brigade plan and subordinate plans begins to form. The brigade FSO begins receiving questions from these subordinate organizations regarding the brigade's scheme of fire support:

a. Is target AN0012 to be fired before or after the FASCAM target?

b. What is the trigger for the FASCAM target?

c. When does my task force get priority of fires?

d. Is CAS attacking the motorized rifle company (MRC) before or after the OBSCURATION fires; which ACA will be placed in effect?

3. The brigade FSO, by this time overwhelmed with questions his annex does not cover and that he is unprepared to answer, places all questions on hold as he attempts to develop and record a scheme of fire support. The subordinates, however, continue planning with their questions unanswered. The gap continues to widen.

4. The brigade FSO completes a rudimentary scheme of fire support, usually written on a yellow legal pad. Unfortunately, the subordinate fire supporters have completed planning and have issued their OPORDs by this time. The FSO talks the subordinates through the scheme of fire support and all soon realize there are grave differences between the brigade plan and each subordinate plan. Everyone attempts to adjust their respective plan, but the time until execution is just too short. Many deficiencies go uncorrected. The break between the brigade and subordinate plans is now complete.

5. As the brigade prepares for mission execution, there still is no brigade consolidated scheme of fire support. Valuable preparation time, rather than being used for backbriefs, briefbacks, and rehearsing the scheme of fire support, is, instead, spent developing the scheme of fire support, and a quality product still does not exist. The scheme of fire support is probably clear in the mind of the brigade FSO, but routinely, most of the subordinate fire supporters are very unsure of the sequencing of the fire support events. The results of this scenario are the trends in figure 1.

The Problem

To find the root of this problem, we only have to look as far as our planning tool, the fire support annex. Our current fire support annexes are inadequate as planning, preparation, and execution tools. The annexes contain target lists, controlled supply rates (CSRs), CAS allocation, organization for combat, high payoff target (HPT) lists, execution matrices, and a variety of other information. All of this data is valuable and necessary, but the annexes do not contain a document that outlines the scheme of fire support for the operation. That is, what event will be executed first, second, and so on in our fire support plan, what and who will trigger this event, and what is the desired outcome for this event? The execution matrix does not give us this detail. Execution matrices give only groups of events that take place during a time period, not specific events that take place at a specific time. Target lists tell us target description, and the HPT lists tell us targets, and attack guidance matrices tell us when and how. Thus, our fire support annex, although packed with information, contains no document that provides "one-stop shopping" to assist in planning, preparation, rehearsal, and execution of the fire support plan.


A scheme of fire support must be developed during planning and published with the brigade OPORD.

The scheme can either be written in paragraph form, or outlined on a worksheet. An effective scheme of fire support worksheet is shown in figure 2. An explanation of each row in the worksheet is shown in figure 3.

The scheme of fire support worksheet issued at the brigade operations order must reflect how the brigade fire support plan will be executed. To accomplish this, the worksheet should be initiated during course-of-action development. The fire support events determined during the course-of-action development will be very general (e.g., employ CAS in EA RED, artillery engages MRB in EA GREEN). The meat of the worksheet will be developed during the wargaming session. This will require that the FSO, targeting officer, fire support NCO, and ALO are participating in the wargaming session (while the assistant Bde FSO runs the FSE).

The FSO should be around the map board interacting with the rest of the targeting team during wargaming. The FSO and the targeting team will be wargaming the effects desired and timing of the CAS in EA RED and the artillery in EA GREEN. The Targeting Officer and Fire Support NCO, who are in the plans tent with a map board, overlay, the initial worksheet, and a clean worksheet, are doing the detailed work to develop the fire support plan and the worksheet. If the targeting team determines that the CAS in EA RED will be four aircraft, employing maverick missiles, controlled by ETAC 1, to destroy six BMPs from the lead MRB, the targeting officer will determine the target grid in EA RED and annotate all of this information as a fire support event on the clean worksheet. This clean worksheet is now becoming our revised scheme of fire support worksheet. If the targeting team determines that an ACA is required for the CAS, it too becomes a fire support event and is entered on the revised worksheet by the targeting officer. The targeting officer and the ALO conduct coordination and fill out a CAS Target Box CARD, if used. If artillery SEAD is required, it is another fire support event on the worksheet.

This same process is followed for artillery engagements of the enemy. If artillery fires in EA GREEN are still determined by the targeting team to be required, the targeting team develops effects and timing (synchronization). The Fire Support NCO, on his map board and overlay, develops the actual six-digit target, and then the Targeting Officer enters the required information on the revised worksheet.

This process continues until the entire plan, all fire support events, with branches and sequels, have been war-gamed. The end result is that our scheme of fire support worksheets are completed at the end of the wargaming. Certainly the worksheets may need to be rewritten for legibility, but they are ready for publication in the brigade operations order as the scheme of fire support. All fire support events must be included on the worksheet. Events that may be included are: Implementation of FSCMs and radar zones, radar cuing, shifting of priority of fire, movement of observers, IEW jamming, and artillery movement. An example of a completed worksheet for a portion of the scheme of fire support is shown in figure 4.

The bottom line is that the necessary discussion and synchronization are taking place during the planning phase, not during the preparation phase. Planning in this fashion will allow us to issue a fire support plan to subordinate organizations that they can use as the basis for their planning without fear of massive changes as execution time draws near.

Plan the scheme of fire support throughout the brigade's battle space. Include the complete scheme on the worksheet.

The brigade must develop a complete scheme of fire support. Too often, the brigade does not plan the close fight. The brigade fire support plan often ends after the last deep engagement. Doctrinally, as well as practically, this is not correct. The brigade must plan for deep, close, and rear. If the brigade only plans deep, and puts the burden for all close planning on the task forces, the transition from deep to close will never take place as envisioned by the brigade fire support officer. If, instead, the brigade plans the fire support fight throughout the zone or sector, we can force the transition from deep to close to rear by planning one continuous fight. There will not be gaps in the transition because it is one integrated plan developed by one headquarters, as opposed to trying to paste together three plans (deep, close, rear) developed by three headquarters (brigade, task force, forward support battalion). Remember, the brigade fire support element develops the fire support plan, subordinate fire support elements refine it. The scheme of fire support worksheet facilitates this planning and refinement. In transitioning from deep to close to rear, the brigade is not handing off fires to subordinate headquarters, it is handing off responsibility for execution of the brigade fire support plan to subordinate headquarters.

Conduct complete and thorough staff supervision of the plan.

The crux of this function is the technique and procedure necessary. The scheme of fire support worksheet provides an excellent staff supervision document. If fire support events are assigned to subordinate elements for execution, the brigade fire support element should then review all entries in that specific event column. The subordinate elements should be required to submit to the brigade FSE the execution details of that event (e.g., exact trigger description and grid, the time the trigger was emplaced, observer location, batteries that will fire the target, volume of fire and munitions, etc.). The data received in the brigade FSE should be entered on the worksheet in the appropriate black box. A blank black box indicates information not yet received from the subordinate organization, and the brigade FSE can then query the subordinate to determine the status of the planning and preparation for that event. As the information is received from subordinates, the brigade FSE can determine whether the subordinate's plan will accomplish the event properly (i.e., triggers in the proper location, volume of fire sufficient to achieve the required effects, etc.) or, if refinement is necessary, direct that the refinement take place.

Ideally, subordinates plan to fully accomplish the brigade scheme of fire support. This can only be assured by frequent and complete backbriefs and briefbacks by the subordinate to the brigade FSO or FSCOORD. The backbriefs must begin immediately after the brigade operations order is issued to ensure all fire supporters completely understand the brigade scheme of fire support and their individual responsibilities in executing the scheme. A backbrief should be conducted by the subordinate to the FSO/FSCOORD when the subordinate's plan is complete, but before it is published. This backbrief will probably be conducted on the radio/MSRT, and is extremely important to ensure that flaws in the subordinate's plan are discovered before that plan is issued. Periodic backbriefs during the preparation phase should be required in the form of required information reported to the brigade FSE (triggers, observer locations, battery locations, etc.).

Ensure the branch plans developed by the staff are completely supported by fire support. Develop a scheme of fire support for the branch plans.

It is of benefit to further review briefly how the scheme of fire support worksheet can be used in branch planning. Of course the key to successful execution of branch plans is well-developed decision support products. The scheme of fire support worksheet is not meant to replace a decision support matrix (DSM). It is designed to supplement the DSM and provide the FSCOORD and FSO with an additional decisionmaking tool. Just as the DSM reveals to the commander the array of options available, the scheme of fire support worksheet shows the range of fire support options available based on different enemy or friendly situations and the resultant decisions made. The illustration below will provide more detail in the use of the "BRANCH" line on the scheme of fire support worksheet.

Note: Our base plan in this movement to contact is based on the enemy attacking along AA2 to AA2a to AA2a2. We have branch plans which we will execute if the enemy attacks another avenue of approach. Decision points (as defined on our decision support matrix and template (DSM/DST)) outline the options available to the commander in choosing to execute a branch plan.


Some Final Thoughts

This scheme of fire support worksheet truly fills a great need in how we do business. It streamlines the planning process, focusing us during the planning, and forcing us to do the detailed synchronization before we issue the OPORD. During the preparation phase, it is the ideal staff supervision document. The dark black boxes on the worksheet are areas in which data is owed by a subordinate. A blank box means an answer is not yet received - - time to follow up and check with the subordinate. Also during the preparation phase, this worksheet is our fire support rehearsal. If all fire support events are included on the worksheets, the Brigade FSO or FSCOORD need to simply follow from event to event to ensure subordinates are rehearsing properly. Finally, during execution all fire supporters can easily follow along as the scheme of fire support is executed. If we deviate from the plan, it will be consciously, and not by accident, because we will see where a branch plan is to be executed (must like a Decision Support Template (DST), but with much more fire support detail).

The worksheet is applicable at all echelons, all the way to company fire support team level. The brigade FSO may need six or seven worksheets to cover the brigade scheme of fire support, whereas the company/team FSO may only need one worksheet to cover the four or five events for which his company is responsible. The level of detail in the worksheets will be dependent on the amount of time available, but the more detailed the better. The brigade should schedule training with all fire supporters, down to company team level, on the use of the scheme of fire support worksheet. Training must be conducted by the brigade FSO prior to trying to use this document across the brigade. Additionally, fire supporters at each echelon must use the same type of execution matrix (or worksheet). It is unrealistic to expect a coordinated effort across the brigade if each echelon is using a different format for their coordination document (their execution matrix).

figure 3

figure 3

What the Heck is RSOI?

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