Close Air Support: Tactics and Coordination with Ground Forces

Close Air Support (CAS) is a critical element of modern warfare providing air support to ground forces in close proximity to enemy targets. CAS operations involve the coordination of air and ground forces to identify and engage enemy targets often in complex and dynamic combat environments. Effective coordination between air and ground forces is essential for successful CAS operations as the accuracy and timing of air strikes can have a significant impact on ground operations.

The role of Forward Air Controllers (FACs) is crucial in CAS operations as they act as the liaison between ground forces and air assets providing real-time situational awareness and directing air strikes to enemy targets. Target identification and selection communication protocols and techniques as well as weapons and munitions selection are key elements of CAS operations.

Despite the critical importance of CAS in modern warfare there are significant challenges and risks associated with these operations. This article will explore the tactics and coordination required for effective CAS operations as well as the challenges and risks that must be addressed to ensure success.

Key Takeaways

  • Effective coordination between air and ground forces is crucial for successful Close Air Support operations.
  • The role of Forward Air Controllers is essential in identifying and engaging enemy targets.
  • Preparation for CAS operations involves familiarization with terrain weather and potential threats in the operational area.
  • The future of CAS may involve the development of more autonomous unmanned aerial systems and the use of advanced technologies such as AI and ML.

Overview of Close Air Support Operations

An examination of the tactics and coordination between air and ground forces in close air support operations provides a comprehensive understanding of the complexities involved in this critical military activity.

Close air support (CAS) is a vital component of modern warfare that involves the use of aircraft to provide direct fire support to ground troops engaged in combat. The primary objective of CAS is to deliver precise and timely support to ground forces allowing them to achieve their objectives while minimizing the risk to friendly forces and civilians.

Effective CAS requires the coordination of multiple elements including aircraft ground forces and the command and control structure. The success of CAS operations depends on a range of factors including the selection of appropriate aircraft and weaponry the identification and designation of targets and the effective communication between air and ground forces.

These factors are further complicated by the dynamic nature of modern warfare which requires commanders to make decisions rapidly in response to changing situations on the battlefield. As such an in-depth understanding of the tactics and coordination involved in CAS is essential for military planners and commanders to effectively employ this critical capability.

Importance of Effective Coordination between Air and Ground Forces

Effective communication and collaboration between airborne assets and troops on the ground can greatly enhance the success of combat operations. Close air support operations require consistent coordination between both parties to ensure that the air assets are effectively supporting the ground troops. The importance of communication between the two cannot be overstated. Without proper communication and collaboration the risk of unintended consequences and miscommunication increases potentially leading to friendly fire incidents wasted resources and increased danger to both air and ground forces.

To ensure effective coordination between air and ground forces the following points must be taken into consideration:

  • Establish clear communication protocol: A clear and concise communication protocol must be established between the air and ground forces. This protocol should include designated communication channels standard terminologies and procedures for requesting and delivering support.

  • Train and familiarize: Both air and ground forces must be trained and familiarized with each other’s capabilities and limitations. This familiarity can help reduce communication gaps and misunderstandings.

  • Assign a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC): A JTAC is a specially trained individual who coordinates air support with ground troops. The JTAC acts as a liaison between the air and ground forces providing essential information and ensuring that the air assets are correctly directed.

  • Use technology: Technological advancements have made it easier to establish communication between air and ground forces. The use of radios visual markers and GPS technology can help improve communication and coordination between the two.

Effective coordination between air and ground forces is crucial for the success of close air support operations. By establishing clear communication protocols training and familiarizing both parties assigning a JTAC and utilizing technology the risks of miscommunication and unintended consequences can be minimized ensuring a successful mission.

Role of Forward Air Controllers in CAS

The Role of Forward Air Controllers (FACs) is crucial in ensuring the accuracy and precision of air support strikes.

FACs are specially trained individuals who are responsible for coordinating air support with ground forces. They are typically located with the ground troops and communicate directly with pilots to ensure that air strikes are delivered according to the needs of the ground forces.

The FAC’s primary responsibility is to ensure that air support strikes are conducted in a manner that minimizes the risk of friendly fire incidents and maximizes the effectiveness of the strike.

FACs are responsible for a wide range of duties including identifying targets marking targets and directing the aircraft to the targets. They must also be able to communicate effectively with the ground forces and the pilots to ensure that everyone is aware of the location of friendly forces and the intended target.

The success of a close air support mission depends on the effectiveness of the FACs in coordinating the air support with the ground forces. In addition FACs must be able to adapt to changing circumstances quickly and effectively to ensure that air support is delivered in a timely and effective manner.

Target Identification and Selection

Target identification and selection plays a crucial role in ensuring the precision and accuracy of air support strikes. The success of a close air support (CAS) mission greatly depends on the ability of forward air controllers (FACs) to identify and select targets that will effectively support the ground forces.

The following are some key factors that FACs consider when identifying and selecting targets for air support strikes:

  1. Threat assessment – FACs must first assess the threat posed by the enemy forces and determine which targets pose the greatest danger to the ground troops. This includes identifying enemy positions weapon systems and other assets that may pose a threat to friendly forces.

  2. Target prioritization – Once the threats have been identified FACs must prioritize the targets based on their importance and the potential impact of destroying them. This requires a deep understanding of the ground situation and the objectives of the mission.

  3. Precision targeting – FACs must ensure that the targets selected are precise and accurate and that the air support strike will not harm friendly forces or civilians in the area.

  4. Coordination with ground forces – Finally FACs must work closely with the ground forces to ensure that the targets selected are aligned with their objectives and that the air support strike will effectively support their efforts. This requires effective communication and coordination between the FACs and ground forces.

Target identification and selection is a critical component of close air support missions. By carefully assessing the threat prioritizing targets ensuring precision and coordinating with ground forces FACs can help ensure the success of a mission and the safety of all involved.

Communication Protocols and Techniques

Communication is a crucial aspect of successful air support strikes and thus protocols and techniques must be established to ensure effective communication between forward air controllers and the aircraft pilots. The communication protocols used for close air support (CAS) must be clear concise and standardized to ensure that all parties involved are on the same page.

In addition it is crucial that the communication protocols are understood and practiced by all personnel involved in the operation to ensure that the information is transmitted accurately and in a timely manner. To facilitate communication the use of standardized brevity codes and radio terminology can reduce the potential for confusion and misunderstanding.

The brevity codes are short standardized phrases that convey important information quickly and efficiently. For example “IP inbound” means that the aircraft is inbound to the initial point while “Tally” indicates that the forward air controller has visual contact with the target.

Moreover the establishment of a clear and concise communication plan between the ground forces and air support teams is critical to ensure that the air support provided is adequate timely and effective. Hence effective communication techniques and protocols in CAS operations can significantly increase the accuracy and efficiency of air support and minimize the risk of friendly fire incidents.

Types of Aircraft Used in CAS

Aircraft selection is a critical factor in the success of close air support operations. The type of aircraft used for CAS depends on various factors such as the mission objectives terrain weather and the enemy’s air defense capabilities.

The three main types of aircraft used in CAS are fixed-wing aircraft rotary-wing aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Fixed-wing aircraft such as the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the F-16 Fighting Falcon are designed for air-to-ground missions and provide high-speed long-range and high-altitude capabilities. They are ideal for delivering precision-guided munitions conducting reconnaissance and providing close air support to ground troops.

Rotary-wing aircraft such as the AH-64 Apache and the UH-60 Black Hawk are designed for low-altitude close-in support to ground troops. They are highly maneuverable can operate in tight spaces and provide excellent situational awareness.

UAVs such as the MQ-9 Reaper and the RQ-7 Shadow are ideal for conducting reconnaissance surveillance and target acquisition missions in hostile environments. They can operate at high altitudes provide real-time video feeds and deliver precision-guided munitions.

In summary the selection of the appropriate aircraft for CAS depends on the specific requirements of the mission and the capabilities of the enemy forces.

Weapons and Munitions for Close Air Support

After discussing the different types of aircraft used in close air support it is now essential to delve into the weaponry and munitions utilized by these aircraft. The effectiveness of close air support heavily relies on the accuracy and precision of the weapons and munitions used. Ground forces depend on the air support to provide them with the necessary firepower to accomplish their mission while minimizing the risk of collateral damage. The use of the right weapons and munitions can make all the difference in the success of a mission.

The weapons and munitions used in close air support operations vary depending on the aircraft and the mission’s objectives. Here are some examples of the most common ones used:

  • Guided bombs: These are bombs that are guided to their targets using GPS technology laser designation or a combination of both. They are highly accurate and can be used in situations where there is a high risk of collateral damage.

  • Rockets: A rocket is a self-propelled unguided weapon that is effective against a wide range of targets. They are often used to destroy enemy fortifications or armored vehicles.

  • Guns: Close air support aircraft are often equipped with cannons that fire high-explosive rounds capable of destroying a variety of targets including vehicles and personnel.

  • Missiles: Missiles are guided weapons that can be used against a wide range of targets including armored vehicles and enemy aircraft. They are highly effective and can be launched from a safe distance.

By utilizing these weapons and munitions close air support aircraft can provide ground forces with the necessary firepower to accomplish their mission while minimizing the risk of collateral damage. The coordination between ground forces and air support is crucial to ensure that the right weapon and munition are used at the right time and place.

Training and Preparation for CAS Operations

To ensure effective execution of CAS operations adequate training and preparation are necessary. Close air support involves a high level of coordination between ground forces and air assets and it requires pilots to be skilled in identifying targets communicating with ground troops and delivering precise munitions. Therefore pilots undergo extensive training in various aspects of CAS operations such as target identification weapons delivery and communication with ground troops.

Preparation for CAS operations also involves familiarization with the terrain weather conditions and potential threats in the operational area. Pilots must be aware of the limitations of their aircraft and munitions and they must also be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances on the battlefield.

Moreover successful CAS operations require collaboration between various units such as forward air controllers ground troops and aircrews. Therefore training exercises often involve joint operations with ground troops to practice communication and coordination between different units.

By ensuring that pilots are adequately trained and prepared CAS operations can be conducted safely and effectively providing critical support to ground forces on the battlefield.

Challenges and Risks in CAS

One of the challenges associated with conducting CAS operations is the risk of collateral damage to non-combatants and civilian infrastructure. Collateral damage refers to any unintentional or incidental damage to persons or objects that are not the intended targets. This risk arises due to the proximity of friendly forces and civilians to the target area as well as the nature of the weapons used. CAS operations often involve the use of high-explosive weapons which can cause significant damage to buildings and other structures in the surrounding areas. Moreover the speed and intensity of the operations can make it difficult to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants increasing the risk of civilian casualties.

Another challenge in CAS operations is the coordination between air and ground forces. The success of CAS operations depends on the effective communication between the two forces as well as their ability to work together seamlessly. This coordination is essential to ensure that the CAS aircraft are able to accurately identify and engage the correct targets while minimizing the risk of friendly fire and collateral damage. However achieving this level of coordination can be difficult especially in high-stress situations where both forces may be under pressure to act quickly. Additionally the use of different technologies and communication systems between air and ground forces can create additional challenges in ensuring effective coordination.

Future of Close Air Support in Modern Warfare

The evolution of modern warfare necessitates a reimagining of the role and capabilities of aerial assets in providing direct combat support to ground operations. As technology advances and the battlefield becomes more complex the traditional model of close air support (CAS) may need to be adapted to meet the changing needs of ground forces.

One potential solution is to develop more autonomous unmanned aerial systems (UAS) that can provide real-time situational awareness and precision strike capabilities to support ground troops. Additionally new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can be leveraged to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of CAS operations.

Another area of focus for the future of CAS is the integration of air and ground assets. Joint training exercises and increased communication between air and ground forces can improve the coordination and timing of CAS operations resulting in more successful missions and fewer casualties. The use of advanced sensors such as forward-looking infrared (FLIR) and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) can enhance the ability of aircraft to detect and engage targets on the ground.

Ultimately the future of CAS will rely on a combination of technological advancements improved coordination between air and ground forces and a willingness to adapt existing models to meet the changing needs of modern warfare.

Scroll to Top