Wednesday, July 27, 2011

CAS Myths Sidebar: Army-Air Force Views on CAS and Airpower

(scroll down for links to Parts 1-6 of CAS Myths and another 'Sidebar')

The current (IMHO myopic) Army view of airpower persists in relegating the AF to a permanent supporting force, and is highlighted by an incident just before the Desert Storm ground campaign kicked off (boldface emphasis mine):
A few days before the ground war commenced in February 1991. . . he [General Schwarzkopf] met with his subordinate commanders to discuss the land offensive. General Horner explained his Push CAS modus of flowing airplanes to the battlefield twenty-four hours a day (rather than keeping them idle while sitting alert). When General [Frederick] Franks ignored what Horner had said and demanded that VII Corps be allotted hundreds of CAS sorties per day (whether needed or not), the airman angrily disputed the allocation of air power in that manner and reiterated his Push CAS procedures. Horner believed it important for unity of command to let his anger show as he vehemently rejected Franks’s claim for so much unfocused air power. He remembered his outburst having no effect: “Everyone looked at me and said, ‘Well, he fell on his sword; isn’t that quaint.’” General [Walt] Boomer jumped in and requested as many dedicated sorties for his Marines, and General [Gary] Luck joined the “run on the bank” and demanded as many CAS flights for his XVIII Corps. The ground commanders argued for their sorties, but after a while Schwarzkopf called a halt to the debate, reminding all present, “You people don’t understand. It’s all my air, and I’ll use it any way I please.” “That ended the argument,” Horner recalled, “and we maintained centralized command.” The CINCCENT [commander in chief of Central Command] depended upon his JFACC to ensure that all the ground commanders received adequate air support.  
But having failed to divide Airpower into subordinated chunks prior to the ground war, after the ground offensive kicked off Army ground commanders insisted on placing their Fire Support Control Lines so far ahead of their forces that it hindered the Air Force’s ability to engage interdiction targets once the ground war started (source: Revolution in Warfare: Airpower in the Persian Gulf, Thomas A. Keaney and Eliot A. Cohen (1995), pp. 133–134 and partially cited in “Learning Large Lessons”):  
FSCL, Coalition aircraft could attack only under direction from ground or airborne controllers. This procedure could cost time to coordinate the actions and required suitable weather conditions and the presence of a controller to execute the attacks: far less weight of fixed-wing air power could be brought to bear under such circumstances. . . .
Because the FSCL definition said little about coordination of weapons employment beyond the FSCL the corps commanders considered supporting fires beyond the line as “permissive,” requiring no further coordination. That is, they resisted any restrictions on employing missiles or helicopters beyond the line and saw attempts to include such strikes in the ATO as efforts to put their organic firepower under JFACC control. To avoid JFACC control, XVIII Airborne Corps advanced the FSCL well north of the Euphtates River on 27 February and thus reserved an area for attack helicopter operations unconstrained by any requirement to coordinate with the JFACC. The effect of this was to hamper air power’s ability to destroy escaping Iraqi ground forces until the FSCL was finally pulled back after several hours.
Corps commanders at times set the FSCLs for their respective corps at different distances. which sowed confusion and complicated air-ground coordination. This practice continued until Gen Horner established a Desert Storm operation-wide FSCL that approximated the distance that corps commanders could effectively engage the enemy with their indirect fires including the MLRSs.       

The Army POV of the FSCL and its placement was of course quite different and focused on the limitations imposed on them prior to the kickoff of the ground war:   
....[b]ecause the Air Force absolutely would not fly short of the FSCL before G-Day, we kept the FSCL in close to facilitate air attack of division and corps high priority targets. This caused two problems. Every [artillery] fire mission or AH-64 [attack helicopter] attack beyond the FSCL had to be carefully and painstakingly cleared with the Air Force. Even counterfire required this lengthy  process. Equally bad, air sorties beyond the FSCL were completely the domain of the Air Force. VII Corps could nominate targets beyond the FSCL, but could never be sure they would be attacked.
Two points of view. One takes into account the entire battlespace and the other is centered on the individual corps forces. The corps commander's focus on their responsibilities is perfectly understandable..to a point. I leave it to the reader to decide which POV holds the greater effectiveness and potential for victory.
Part 1: The “Big Two” Close Air Support (CAS) Myths
Part 2: Those "not so good old days”
Part 3: Vietnam and the Rise of the “No-CAS Air Force” Myth
Part 4: Origins of the A-X Program
Part 5: Defining a New CAS Platform: the Evolution of the A-10
Part 6: A-10s 'Forever' ?
CAS Myths Sidebar: The A-10 and the 'Cult of the Gun'

5 comments:

B.Smitty said...

Thanks for this series of posts. I have had innumerable online conversations where I tried to dispute the 'Net myths of "the USAF doesn't want to do CAS (and hates the A-10)" and "the Army should get the CAS mission back".

I'm just going to point people to this series now.

The Forgotten Man said...

Interesting points you raise. But please don't rely on the most flagrant characters (Franks) from 20 years ago and hold them up as what the Army believes.

I think a hybrid solution is usually called for. Some sorties can and should be allocated to ground commanders so they will know exactly what they will have and can plan accordingly. The idea of push CAS is good and analogous to a reserve. Any platoon leader should be able to see that.

I'll go back and read the earlier posts too, but do you quote current Army doctrine? What about papers from SAMS at Ft. Leavenworth?

By the way, you cracked me up with your (IMHO). In the short time I've known you, I haven't heard you utter a humble opinion yet ;-)

Keep up the good work.

SMSgt Mac said...

B.Smitty-
You're welcome, thanks for the kind words. As I opened the series mentioning: I did this to save me having to cover the same old ground repeatedly on the subject. In the process I found out a lot more about the history of the CAS myths than I had ever suspected.

SMSgt Mac said...

Forgotten Man -
I generally followed a chronological structure and I think you will find I looked at Army doctrine from the 20's through about 2005. I fleshed out some links to FSCL/Airpower as Maneuver force in Part 6, but it has been a lot easier to find FSCL papers with an AF POV...it's almost as if the Army doesn't want to talk about it (I kid!).

RE: "IMHO". Hey-I call foul! My opinions are humble on Value Focus Thinking aren't they? What about Birding? It's just that we need to have discussions about more things that I know little about. ;-)

The Forgotten Man said...

;-) You're a good guy Mac. I enjoy our conversations. You make me think. Not everyone does that.