Future Ground Commanders' Close Support Needs and Desirable System Characteristics

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

3.
Supporting Light Infantry
We found that a common characteristic of the types of battlefield situations that U.S. forces have encountered in the recent past (since Vietnam) has been the dependence on light infantry forces. Our review of recent combat history showed that these battlefield situations occur because light infantry forces are often the only forces appropriate for the terrain (e.g., Panama) or because light infantry forces can be rapidly deployed in a crisis (e.g., Desert Shield).1 Such forces may require close support to provide additional firepower and to offset their lack of tactical mobility.Supporting light infantry poses problems that are very different from those explored so exhaustively for mechanized combat. Among the important differences are a more limited ability to effectively shape the close battle through interdiction and deep fires, the generally closer proximity of adversary forces in the close battle, target acquisition and identification difficulties, greater potential for collateral damage and casualties, fratricide, and the need for extremely short response times.We have selected two vignettes for analysis as representative of these battle situations:
Small Unit Infantry Assault
Small Unit Infantry Patrol

Small Unit Infantry Assault

Small unit infantry assaults are part of a class of direct action operations that encompass shortduration strikes and other small-scale offensive actions taken by Special Operations Forces (SOFs) or other light forces to seize, damage, or destroy a specific target.

Small unit assault operations are normally limited in scope and duration and have a preplanned ex-filtration. Typically the force is attacking a target important to attaining or maintaining the political and military initiative (capture of the adversary's leadership, neutralizing a weapon of mass destruction, disabling an air defense system).2 Such operations are designed to achieve specific, well-defined, and often time-sensitive results of strategic or operational significance. Normally the goal of the action is to achieve a specific objective rather than gaining or holding terrain. The target may be located in a variety of environments, such as a military complex, an industrial facility, an insurgent base camp, or a terrorist training facility. The employment of a small SOF team—as opposed to some other attack asset, such as missiles, artillery, or air

____________________
1
Among the contingency operations we considered were: Mayaquez Operation (SEA), El Dorado Canyon (Libya), Urgent Fury (Grenada Rescue), Just Cause (Panama), Desert Shield/ Storm (SWA), Provide Comfort (Kurds in Iraq), Restore Hope (Somalia), Able Sentry (Macedonia), Uphold Democracy (Haiti), and Deny Overflight (Bosnia).
2
From U.S. Army FM100–5, Operations, June 1993, page 13–8.

-49-

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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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