Infantry Drills

FM 3-21.8 – Chapter 2 – Section VI – Close Air Support and Naval Gunfire

Section VI – Close Air Support and Naval Gunfire

 

2-181.  Close air support (CAS) is defined in JP 3-09.3, Joint Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Close Air Support (CAS), as: air action by fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft against hostile targets that are in close proximity to friendly forces and that require detailed integration of each air mission with the fire and movement of these forces.

2-182.  Very rarely will an Infantry platoon be directly supported by naval gunfire. But if they are, Navy liaison representatives located with supported ground forces coordinate the control of the fire. Naval gunfire can provide large volumes of immediately available, responsive fire support to land combat forces operating near coastal waters.

CLOSE AIR SUPPORT

2-183.  The air liaison officer (ALO) is the battalion commander’s advisor in planning, requesting, and executing CAS missions. The ALO serves as a link between the maneuver element and the attacking aircraft. The platoon may provide information that the ALO or tactical air control party (TACP) uses to target enemy forces. A joint terminal air controller (JTAC) may also be attached to the platoon to facilitate communication. The need for a JTAC should be identified during the planning phase of the mission.

2-184.  Soldiers may provide emergency control if an ALO, FSO, FO, or JTAC is not available (ground force commander accepts responsibility for friendly casualties). This is possible only if the platoon has a UHF capable radio or if the aircraft is equipped with FM radios. Some U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps fixed-wing aircrafts only have ultra high frequency (UHF) radios (AV-8B and F-14) (see FM 6-30). Others have FM capability (A/OA-10, F16, F/A-18, and AC-130). The platoon may also provide information on battle damage as observed. Figure 2-23 shows the format for assessing battle damage.

Figure 2-23. Assessing battle damage.

AC-130 Gunship

2-185.  If the enemy air defense threat is low, the battalion requests CAS from an AC-130H or AC-130U gunship. The AC-130 provides effective fires night operations and flies CAS and special operations. The AC-130H aircraft contains one 40-mm gun and one 105-mm howitzer (the AC-130U has an additional 25-mm cannon). It is equipped with sensors and target acquisition systems that include forward-looking infrared radar and low-light television. It is effective in urban environments due to its advanced sensors.

Attack Helicopters and Close Combat Attack

2-186.  The primary mission of attack helicopter units is to destroy enemy armor and mechanized forces or to provide precision fires. Employing attack helicopters increases the lethality of ground maneuver forces.

2-187.  The close combat attack is a technique for using aviation direct fires closely integrated with close fight on the ground. It may be planned or unplanned, but works most effectively when the company integrates aviation assets into the planning process.

2-188.  To request immediate close combat attack, if METT-TC permits, the ground unit in contact executes a face-to-face coordination or uses a radio transmission to provide a situation update to the attack aircraft. Figure 2-24 illustrates a close combat attack coordination checklist.

 

Close Combat Attack Coordination Checklist

1. Enemy situation – specific target identification.

2. Friendly situation – location and method of marking friendly positions.

3. Ground maneuver mission and scheme of maneuver.

4. Attack aircraft scheme of maneuver.

5. Planned EA and battle position/support-by-fire position.

6. Method of target marking.

7. Fire coordination and fire restrictions.

8. Map graphics update.

9. Request for immediate aviation close fight support – used for targets of opportunity

or for ground-to-air target handoff.

Figure 2-24. Checking close combat coordination.

2-189.  After receipt of a request for immediate close combat attack, the attack team leader informs the ground unit leader of the battle position, assault by fire position, or the series of positions his team will occupy. This information should provide the best observation and fields of fire into the engagement or target area. The attack team leader then provides the ground maneuver unit leader with his concept for the team’s attack on the objective. Depending on SOP and tactical requirements, the flight lead may initially talk with the Infantry battalion, but will likely get pushed to the company net and may talk directly to the platoon leader.

2-190.  Upon mission completion, the attack team leader provides the ground maneuver commander a battle damage assessment of the intended target.

Marking Friendly Positions

2-191.  Whenever possible, friendly positions are marked to enhance safety, minimize the possibility of fratricide, and provide target area references. Methods of marking friendly positions are shown in Table 2-10.

Table 2-10. Methods of marking friendly positions.


METHOD
DAY/

NIGHT

ASSETS FRIENDLY

MARKS

TARGET

MARKS

REMARKS
Smoke D/N All Good Good Easily identifiable, may compromise friendly position, obscure target, or warn of fire support employment. Placement may be difficult due to structures.
Smoke (IR) D/N All/

NVD at night

Good Good Easily identifiable, may compromise friendly position, obscure target, or warn of fire support employment. Placement may be difficult due to structures. Night marking is greatly enhanced by the use of IR reflective smoke.
ILLUM, ground burst D/N All N/A Good Easily identified, may wash out NVDs.

Table 2-10. Methods of marking friendly positions (continued).


METHOD
DAY/

NIGHT

ASSETS FRIENDLY

MARKS

TARGET

MARKS

REMARKS
Signal mirror D All Good N/A Avoids compromise of friendly location. Dependent on weather and available light and may be lost in reflections from other reflective surfaces such as windshields, windows, and water.
Spotlight N All Good Marginal Highly visible to all. Compromises friendly position and warns of fire support employment. Effectiveness is dependent upon degree of urban lighting.
IR Spotlight N All NVD Good Marginal Visible to all with NVDs. Less likely to compromise than overt light. Effectiveness dependent upon degree of urban lighting.
Visual laser N All Good Marginal Highly visible to all. Risk of compromise is high. Effectiveness dependent upon degree of urban lighting.
Tracers D/N All N/A Marginal May compromise position. May be difficult to distinguish mark from other gunfire. During daytime use, may be more effective to kick up dust surrounding target.
Electronic beacon D/N See remarks. Excellent Good Ideal friendly marking device for AC-130 and some United States Air Force fixed wing (not compatible with Navy or Marine aircraft). Least impeded by urban terrain. Can be used as a TRP for target identification. Coordination with aircrews essential to ensure equipment and training compatibility.
Strobe (overt) N All Marginal N/A Visible by all. Effectiveness dependent upon degree of urban lighting.
Strobe (IR) N All NVD Good N/A Visible to all NVDs. Effectiveness dependent upon degree of urban lighting. Coded strobes aid in acquisition.
Flare (overt) D/N All Good N/A Visible by all. Easily identified by aircrew.
Flare (IR) N All NVD Good N/A Visible to all NVDs. Easily identified by aircrew.
Glint/IR panel N All NVD Good N/A Not readily detectable by enemy. Very effective except in highly lit areas.
Combat identification panel D/N All FLIR Good N/A Provides temperature contrast on vehicles or building. May be obscured by urban terrain.
VS-17 panel D All Marginal N/A Only visible during daylight. Easily obscured by structures.
Chemical heat sources D/N All FLIR Poor N/A Easily masked by urban structures and lost in thermal clutter. Difficult to acquire, can be effective when used to contrast cold background or when aircraft knows general location.
Spinning chem light

(overt)

N All Marginal N/A Provides unique signature. May be obscured by structures. Effectiveness dependent upon degree of urban lighting.
Spinning chemlight (IR) N All NVD Marginal N/A Provides unique signature. May be obscured by structures. Effectiveness dependent upon degree of urban lighting.

NAVAL GUNFIRE SUPPORT

2-192.  Naval gunfire has a wide variety of weapons extending from light conventional armament to heavy missiles and nuclear weapons. It can play a vital role in reducing the enemy’s capability of action by destroying enemy installations and fortifications before a ground assault, and by protecting and covering the supporting offensive operations of the land force after the assault.


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