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Command and Control for Aviation

(FM 101-5, Chap 4; FM 1-111, Chap 2;
FC 71-6, Chap 1; FC 71-3, Chap 3 & 4)

Understanding Ground Commander's Intent

To coordinate and plan properly, the Attack Aviation Battalion commander and his staff must know and understand the intent of the division and ground brigade commander, their mission, how Attack Aviation fits into their scheme of maneuver, and, finally, priorities assigned to aviation. The Aviation Battalion order must be written taking into consideration the intent of the next higher level commander. This allows the attack helicopter company commanders and crews to understand the commander's intent two levels higher. Knowledge of the intent is critical to allow both commanders and staffs to develop plans that support the overall operation and allow initiative of subordinates in the absence of detailed orders. Intent provides unity of effort through a framework in which commanders and staffs two levels down can make decisions during an operation. These decisions may differ from the original plan, but will still accomplish the mission with the desired results of the higher commanders. These desired results pertain to the enemy, as well as friendly units. To accomplish this task, experience at the NTC shows aviation battalion staffs must proactively view the battlefield, understand the intent of brigade and task force commanders, and coordinate to task force level. Furthermore, experience shows that intent is not the concept of operation but it drives the concept and execution. The intent is a concise outline that provides the focus of the operation; the concept adds the flesh. The concept of the operation takes the intent and describes the forces, fires, control measures/graphics, and support requirements to accomplish the mission the way the commander had envisioned the battle. The concept gives the "how to" in fine detail to include decision points/lines necessary to carry out the intent without additional guidance or in the absence of further orders. A doctrinal definition of commander's intent is now being staffed throughout the Army.

Contingency Mission Challenges

Because attack helicopters are subject to be sent anywhere in the division area, contingency missions require coordination, detailed planning, and, where possible, a rehearsed effort. Experience also shows the tactical ground commanders' staffs must integrate the combat power of Army Aviation early in the planning process. This prevents attack helicopters from being:

  • Piecemealed into the battle.

  • Improperly employed against enemy dug-in positions, where they die to main gun and small arms fire.

Additionally they must be:

  • Planned for only when weather condition and other constraints do not preclude their employment.

  • Coordinated with Close Air Support (CAS) and artillery to maximize the potential combat power of JAAT operations.

  • Employed against the enemy while he is in march column.

  • Employed to control penetrations of a defensive sector.

Army Aviation must be more closely integrated with ground operations. Common problems are:

  • Air crews must understand the task force commander's scheme of maneuver or the direction of task force fires.

  • Attack helicopters are vulnerable to enemy and friendly artillery, NBC, and ADA.

The Aviation LNO

The LNO at brigade and task force level plays a significant role in the coordination of attack helicopters. Although the attack helicopter battalion TO& does not support LNOs for ground task forces, the advantages of sending knowledgeable crew members to coordinate outweighs the disadvantages of having to take them "out of hide." These LNOs alert the aviation battalion commander and staff of future operations and should provide detailed coordination and planning input to the ground staff to get aviation assets integrated from the time of mission receipt. This early coordination is especially critical when aviation is moved to a new area in a hurry. The LNOs, coupled with O& nets of supported ground units, ensure the timely flow of information to the aviation units prior to and during the battle. If this integration of Army Aviation is not done at home station and both ground and air staffs do not have a clear understanding of each other's needs, synchronization will not occur on the battlefield.

Staff Planning

The Avn Bn S3 must analyze and recommend contingency missions based on the division and ground brigade commanders' intents, the tactical IPB process, and the ground task force concept of the Aviation Bn Cdr of the operation. Having done this, he should go to the most critical sector, wargame with the ground commander, and send the S3 to wargame other less critical contingencies. The key is that the priority of coordination and planning effort must be established by the Aviation Bn commander and executed by subordinate commanders. As an experienced Aviation Observer Controller (OC) said, "Time management is critical to the accomplishment of the mission. Good use of it makes it your best friend; misuse of it makes it your own worst enemy."

The effective use of time is everyone's responsibility from the individual soldier to the battalion commander, especially when an aviation plan cannot be completed until the ground unit commander has outlined his plan. The following are some successful techniques and procedures used in coordinating and planning the employment of attack helicopters:

  • Aviation units must train/drill time management. The coordination required to synchronize aviation combat power may be achieved through: common SOPs; CPXs, and FTXs with tactical ground maneuver units that cause both orders groups to practice staff interaction.

  • Briefbacks ensure leader and soldier understanding. Aviation leaders must do two briefbacks to ensure they fully understand the ground and the aviation commander's maneuver plans. The first briefback should occur at the end of the aviation battalion order. Company commanders provide the battalion commander short oral briefs describing their part in the battalion maneuver scheme. The second briefback occurs during the "supervise and refine" portion of the troop leading procedures. After providing sufficient time for company commanders to recon and do their planning, they meet with the battalion commander, S3, FSO, and ALO on a piece of key terrain to go over the details of how the aviation battalion will conduct its missions. This second briefback maximizes lateral communication and coordination, adjusts the aviation plan based on changes to the ground commander's plan, and is key to synchronizing combat power. In an aviation battalion, the above process, coupled with the troop leading procedures, might look like this: Receive the Mission (monitor Div order); Analyze the Mission; Make a Tentative Plan; Begin Movement (battle preparation); Recon/Coordinate with ground unit commanders based on time; Meet Back at a Central Point; Debrief each other; Revise Original Plan based on recon/coordination with ground unit; Plan Routes and Attack Positions; Issue the Order; Rehearse, and, finally Provide Intel Updates to the companies.

  • Aviation units must strive to have the 2IC/Deputy Commander (XO) in the TOC during planning and execution. The presence of a senior individual is vital to synchronize aviation assets prior to the battle (i.e., FARPs) and to assist the commander in maintaining communications.

  • The Aviation Bn FSO must coordinate directly with Brigade FSE and the supporting Artillery Bn to ensure understanding of the Bde fire plan, frequencies, call signs, and procedures.

  • Command and control must be a major consideration in the planning process. A redundant communications plan with both supported and subordinate units is vital. Simple, well thought out, innovative plans with clear graphics are a must. Multiple employment options and coordination measures both ground and air, must be thoroughly discussed with attack aircraft crews (individual crew initiative).

  • Rapid production and distribution of written orders and overlays is critical. This provides time for coordination, reconnaissance, changes to ground commander's plan, briefbacks and, where possible, rehearsals under MOPP IV conditions. Orders drills/practice must be done at home station so all TOC personnel know their specific part in orders production in detail and can routinely produce orders under the stress of combat.

Table of Contents
Section I: Intelligence
Section III: Fire Support

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