Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR)
Personnel recovery has become an increasingly important mission area receiving added emphasis among OSD policy makers and throughout DoD. It is significant that recent world events requiring military planning options also involved the deployment of combat search and rescue forces. In each instance, recovery assets were among the first to arrive in theater so they would be ready to support combat operations. Additionally, soon after planning began during recent crises, the White House staff requested the Joint Staff provide their concept of personnel recovery for the contingency for review. Presidential interest was high concerning the safety of US military forces and our ability to recover them if necessary.
The USAF has been designated by DOD as the lead service for Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR). To meet the requirements of a lead service, the Air Force has equipped and trained specialized rescue forces to conduct CSAR.
The Army does not have dedicated CSAR units or aircraft; however, CSAR is a secondary mission for Army aviation, medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) units, and watercraft units. Additionally, ground maneuver units could be assigned to accomplish CSAR operations. The MEDEVAC units are being equipped with PLSs and can conduct CSAR operations in addition to MEDEVAC operations.
Naval organic battle group CSAR assets consist of selected CSAR-trained crews within each carrier-based helicopter antisubmarine warfare squadron (HS). Squadrons equipped with HH-60H helicopters are trained to conduct day and night CSAR and naval special warfare (NSW) operations in a hostile environment against small arms and infrared (IR) missiles. HH-60H crews are specially trained in nap-of-the-earth and terrain flight, flying in hostile environments, night flying using night vision goggles (NVG), and NSW support.
The Marine Corps views CSAR as an implied tasking that should not detract from primary functions. Marine Corps forces perform self-supporting recovery operations and external CSAR support through a concept known as TRAP. Marine air-ground task forces (MAGTFs) do not routinely train to conduct the search portion of CSAR, particularly in a medium or high air threat environment. The TRAP mission differs from CSAR in that it usually does not involve extended air search procedures to locate possible survivors.
The primary operational task of rescue is to locate, communicate with, and recover downed aircrews and isolated personnel. This primary task can be broken into three sub-tasks. Locating the aircrew or isolated personnel (survivor) by visual or electronic search methods to pinpoint the survivor's location and permit recovery. Communicating with the survivor by radio or visual signaling to conduct authentication. Recover the survivor to return the survivor to friendly control and provide the survivor necessary medical assistance.
Additional, non-rescue specific, operational tasks that must be completed to accomplish the primary rescue task include: (1) provide personnel and equipment to train rescue mission ready personnel, (2) operate efficiently during peacetime, (3) airdrop rescue personnel and equipment, (4) configure rescue equipment for deployment, (5) provide self-protection for rescue assets, (6) conduct medical evacuation operations, (7) provide intelligence support directly to the rescue aircrew, (8) respond to and prepare for rescue mission execution, (9) control alert and airborne rescue missions, and (10) support rescue sortie production.
The ability to return isolated personnel to safety is a moral and ethical imperative. American and coalition war fighters can rest assured the Air Force will come to get them, no matter where they are. Today's battlefields are non-linear and non-contiguous, changing shape and venue with speed that outpaces and out-reaches legacy aircraft. The Air Force must have a more capable next-generation CSAR aircraft to better support US and coalition personnel isolated from friendly forces by distance, threat, weather and enemy action. The Air Force is committed to leaving no one behind - a commitment that gives all members of the joint and coalition team the confidence to perform vital work in hostile and uncertain circumstances.
The USAF has a long history of excellence conducting Search and Rescue operations in times of conflict and in times of humanitarian need. In World War II, Army Air Forces (AAF) elements partnered with the British to demonstrate the first US aviation rescue capability. After the war, the AAF consolidated Search and Rescue operations and training under an organization that in 1964 became the Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service (ARRS). During the Vietnam era, ARRS CSAR Task Forces saved 4120 personnel, 2780 of those in combat. "Jolly Green Giant" rescue crews were highly regarded by their fellow aviators and highly rewarded for their heroism. They earned two Medals of Honor, 39 Air Force Crosses, and countless Silver Stars. Since 1979, the Air Force has awarded seven Mackay Trophies - given annually for the year's most meritorious flight - for rescue mission flights. Air Force CSAR Airmen have rescued over 470 members of the joint and coalition team in the Central Command AOR alone since 9/11. Finally, in the aftermath of the 2005 hurricanes, Air Force personnel rescued 4544 Americans from the flood-ravaged Gulf Coast.
Thanks to decades of successful Combat Search and Rescue missions, America's enemies understand our commitment to recovering isolated friendly forces. Unfortunately, America's enemies have also repeatedly demonstrated they intend to exploit captured personnel to undermine American strategic objectives. Effective CSAR denies the enemy the ability to exploit our courageous war fighters by returning them to safety. While other services do personnel recovery, the Air Force is the only service with forces dedicated entirely to CSAR. Whether stranded by downed aircraft, surrounded by a hostile enemy, or abducted by terrorists, isolated personnel know they can rely on our Air Force CSAR professionals to do their job. Every day CSAR assets conduct operations across the spectrum of conflict. These dangerous missions are inherently high risk.
To accomplish the primary task, the US Air Force currently maintains two operational systems, the HC-130N/P and the HH-60G. The HC-130 provides long-range search capability in a no-to-low threat environment, day or night. The HC-130 also provides a limited command and control link for all rescue assets during a rescue mission, and extends the range of the rescue helicopter by providing in-flight air refueling. The HH-60 provides limited search and recovery of the survivor in up to a medium threat environment, day or night. If a survivor requires immediate medical attention and cannot wait for the arrival of the recovery helicopter, threat environment permitting, specially trained Pararescuemen (PJ) can be airdropped to the survivor using parachute deployments. Once on scene, the PJ will stabilize the survivors and prepare them for recovery.
The threat environments that rescue assets operate within can be adjusted by the use of supporting aircraft. Supporting aircraft providing air-to-air, air-to-ground, and Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) coverage can degrade the threat, either temporarily or permanently, permitting rescue assets to enter the area and execute the recovery. Rescue forces may be augmented by these supporting systems depending on the threat environment, distance to the survivor, and availability of assets.
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