Future Ground Commanders' Close Support Needs and Desirable System Characteristics

By Bruce W. Don; John A. Friel et al. | Go to book overview

Summary

Background

Ever since WWII, the importance of close support—defined as responsive, flexible fire support that is needed near enough to friendly forces that it requires detailed integration and coordination—has been well understood by ground commanders. Typically, fixedwing aircraft, artillery, and, since Viet Nam, helicopters provide that support. Much of the analysis of close support needs has been done with a Cold War scenario in mind, where the threat, weather, and terrain were relatively constant. Only the variables of mobilization and warning time, strategic deployment, and the use of nuclear weapons were explored routinely.

But as Desert Storm and other operations since the end of the Cold War have made clear, the demands on U.S. forces have changed, and defense needs have changed along with them. The focus has shifted from the North German plain and the Fulda Gap to Haiti, Rwanda, Somalia, and Bosnia. Thus, defense planners no longer have a single scenario against which to plan, and they might reasonably ask if the need for close support has changed along with the much richer variety of scenarios U.S. forces must now contemplate. Indeed, some have even argued that the need for close support has all but disappeared in light of the U.S. ability to shape the close battle through interdiction.

An analysis of the operations conducted since the end of the Cold War suggests other common characteristics in addition to a change of venue. Most obviously, U.S. forces must adopt a contingency focus. Furthermore, they can anticipate working with a range of allies. Although recent operations have shown a willingness on the part of the U.S. to commit its forces to a wide range of operations in many locations, they also reveal an expectation that the U.S. will neither sustain many casualties in carrying out these operations nor cause many among the civilians who may be caught up in conflicts. Finally, these recent operations reflect a change in national interests and thus goals, making peacekeeping and peacemaking primary objectives.


Purpose and Approach of This Study

This study attempts to determine whether the ground commander's needs for close support have changed and, if so, the unique characteristics of the systems that can meet these different needs. To do so, the study team identified four categories of battlefield situations in which close support could be critical. These four situations address most of

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Future Ground Commanders' Close Support Needs and Desirable System Characteristics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures ix
  • Tables xiii
  • Summary xv
  • Glossary, List of Symbols, Etc xxv
  • 1 - The Problem and Approach 1
  • 2 - Augmenting Allies 21
  • 3 - Supporting Light Infantry 49
  • 4 - Handling “Leading Edge” Problems 69
  • 5 - Supporting Mechanized Offensive Operations 93
  • 6 - Implications for Future Close Support 107
  • Appendix A - Scenario Assessment 123
  • Appendix B - Rand's Tactical Combat Simulation Environment 139
  • Appendix C - Data for Systems, Units, and Vignettes 141
  • Bibliography 149
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