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The fallacy of single source fire support 


Aitken, David M. 

Monterey, California. Naval Postgraduate School 


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THESIS 


THE FALLACY OF SINGLE SOURCE FIRE SUPPORT 

Thesis Advisor: 

by 

David M. Aitken, Jr 

June 2003 

Hy S. Rothstein 

Second Reader: 


David C. Tucker 


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rhe Fallacy of Single Source Fire Support 


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13. ABSTRACT (maximum 200 words) 

This thesis examines the reliance on air power for fire support by light forces and 
whether other fire support assets could perform these missions better. By studying the historical 
evolution of fire support, air power and small wars doctrine, patterns emerge in how these 
developments interrelate. These patterns have led to a system that does not take advantage of 
some of the capabilities of other fire support assets, mainly artillery and mortars. The case of 
Operation Enduring Freedom, in Afghanistan, highlights how light forces have come to depend 
on airpower. Could other forms of fire support have provided coverage that would have been 
more effective than the air support received? Light forces need to be aware that they have more 
choices for fire support than calling in air strikes and that artillery and mortars provide 
capabilities that air power cannot currently duplicate. Afghanistan demonstrated that artillery 
remains relevant. In a very permissive environment with few competing missions, there were 
times when air power could not provide the needed fire support to the ground maneuver forces. 


14. SUBJECT TERMS Afghanistan, Air Power, Artillery and Fire Support 


15. NUMBER OF 
PAGES 91 


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Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited 


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THE FALLACY OF SINGLE SOURCE FIRE SUPPORT 

David M. Aitken, Jr 
Major, United States Army 
B.S., Lafayette College, 1990 


Submitted in partial fulfillment of the 
requirements for the degree of 


MASTER OF SCIENCE IN DEFENSE ANALYSIS 

from the 


NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL 
June 2003 


David M. Aitken, Jr 


Hy S. Rothstein 
Thesis Advisor 


David C. Tucker 
Second Reader 


Gordon H. McCormick 

Chairman, Department of Defense Analysis 



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IV 



ABSTRACT 


This thesis examines the reliance on air power for fire support by light forces and 
whether other fire support assets could perform these missions better. By studying the 
historical evolution of fire support, air power and small wars doctrine, patterns emerge in 
how these developments interrelate. These patterns have led to a system that does not 
take advantage of some of the capabilities of other fire support assets, mainly artillery 
and mortars. The case of Operation Enduring Freedom, in Afghanistan, highlights how 
light forces have come to depend on airpower. Could other forms of fire support have 
provided coverage that would have been more effective than the air support received? 
Light forces need to be aware that they have more choices for fire support than calling in 
air strikes and that artillery and mortars provide capabilities that air power cannot 
currently duplicate. Afghanistan demonstrated that artillery remains relevant. In a very 
permissive environment with few competing missions, there were times when air power 
could not provide the needed fire support to the ground maneuver forces. 


V 



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VI 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 


I. INTRODUCTION.I 

II. HISTORY OF FIRE SUPPORT.II 

A. THE RISE OF FIRE SUPPORT.12 

B. THE ADVENT OF AIR POWER.18 

C. THE U.S. INVOLVEMENT IN SMALL WARS DURING THE 

COLD WAR.25 

D. THE POST-COLD WAR ERA.31 

E. SUMMARY.36 

III. AIR OPERATIONS IN AF GHANISTAN.39 

A. OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM.39 

B. THE EFFECTIVENESS OF AIR POWER.42 

C. HOW AIR POWER PROVED INEFFECTIVE.45 

IV. ARTILLERY IN LIMITED CONFLICTS.51 

A. ARTILLERY IN LIMITED CONFLICTS.57 

V. CONCLUSION.65 

LIST OF REFERENCES.71 

INITIAL DISTRIBUTION LIST.77 


vii 



















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LIST OF TABLES 


Table 1 Risk estimates for aerial delivered munitions.58 

Table 2 Risk estimates for indirect fire systems.59 


IX 





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X 



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 


The author wishes to thank Tim and Marty Prater for their friendship and support 
while developing this thesis, especially the many hours spent discussing the current and 
future trends of the Field Artillery Branch. Thanks also to Keith, Kelli and Bisquet 
Augenthauler, who provided assistance in editing my thesis. Thanks for being such good 
friends. The Author wishes to acknowledge his advisors; Professor Hy Rothstein and 
Professor David Tucker. Thanks for the patients and understanding throughout the whole 
process. 



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1. INTRODUCTION 


“You should not have any special fondness for a particular weapon, or anything 

else. ” 

-Miyamoto Musashi, 16431 

Over the last 100 years, the United States has become more and more dependant 
on air power. After every war fought in the Twentieth century, air power advocates 
argued that air power dominated over other military forces. Brigadier General Billy 
Mitchell and General Giulio Douhet pioneered the development of air power theory after 
World War I. Douhet and Mitchell were vindicated during World War II. From the 
German employment of dive-bombers to the Allied strategic bombing campaign. World 
War II again and again reinforced the value of air power in conventional war. The lessons 
learned from World War II validated the belief that command of the air and 
overwhelming firepower were critical for victory. As Robert Scales stated, “bombing and 
shelling from great distances have proven to be the most efficient and cost effective 
means of delivering explosive power while avoiding direct, bloody contact with the 
enemy.”2 

In 1991, the Gulf War once again demonstrated that command of the air was a 
prerequisite for victory in conventional conflicts. For the first time ever, in 1998, NATO 
compelled Yugoslavia to accept a settlement to the civil war in Kosovo through the use 
of airpower. NATO’s air campaign degraded Serbian morale and provided the Kosovo 
Liberation Army (KLA) with freedom from Serbian attacks. Airpower has many 
advantages: including tactical mobility, mass and precision, which make airpower the 
preferred choice for military commanders. As a result, American military commanders 
have begun to depend on the availability of overwhelming airpower and are hesitant to 
act without it. 

1 Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings, Translator: Thomas Cleary (Boston: Shambhala 
Publications, 1993), 14 

2 Robert H. Scales Jr, Firepower In Limited War (Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 
1990), 5 


1 



At the same time that air power has begun to dominate conventional conflict, the 
use of overwhelming air power has failed to prove decisive in limited warfare. In the 
Korean War and the Vietnam War, the United States sought to overwhelm the enemy 
through the application of massive amounts of firepower. Because of the distances 
involved and the remote, inaccessible locations where the fighting took place in many of 
America’s recent limited conflicts, much of the firepower utilized came in the form of 
aerial bombardment. This choice to rely on airpower has been reinforced in recent 
deployments to Bosnia and Somalia by restrictive rules of engagement for employing fire 
support. As part of the ‘Afghan’ Model of warfare, proponents claim that small forces on 
the ground can succeed in combat through the exclusive use of air support as a source of 
fire support. 3 Dr Biddle, in his paper examining the effectiveness of the ‘Afghan’ Model, 
examined the battles at Tora Bora and Operation Anaconda and found that air support 
could not dislodge or destroy the A1 Qaeda and Taliban forces defending during the 
battles. The air strikes suppressed the Taliban and A1 Qaeda forces while they took place, 
but when the air strikes ended the enemy forces were no longer suppressed. As a result, 
the Special Forces operating on the ground encountered limits to the effectiveness of 
airpower. The failure of airpower to enable the United States to dominate limited warfare 
raises the questions of how and why airpower does not achieve the same dominance 
experienced in conventional warfare and could other fire support systems provide better 
support to the ground forces engaged in limited warfare? 

My objective is to examine whether other fire support assets, specifically mortars 
and artillery, would have been as limited in effectiveness as airpower or of greater 
application in certain environments. The question I seek to answer is whether there are 
strengths that mortars and artillery can provide to light forces engaged in limited combat 
that airpower alone cannot provide. What changes in the employment of fire support 
systems are needed to increase the effectiveness of fire support to the maneuver 
commander in specific environments? 


3 Stephen Biddle, Afghanistan And The Future Of Warfare: Implications For Army And Defense 
Policy (Carlise, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2002), 1 

2 



To answer these questions, I intend to examine the evolution of U.S. fire support, 
airpower theory and operations in limited or unconventional wars. How these three 
factors interrelate explains the underlying reasons for how U.S. forces employed fire 
support in Afghanistan. The twentieth century saw revolutionary changes in all three 
areas. The final ten years of the twentieth century, since the Gulf War, has proved 
especially important, because the soldiers fighting in Afghanistan directly experienced 
and learned from this period. 

American fire support doctrine has evolved significantly in the last hundred years. 
At the end of the 19'^ century, the United States military used artillery and mortars using 
direct fire to support its cavalry and infantry. Direct fire consists of seeing and directly 
aiming the mortar or artillery piece at the target. The American Civil War and the Russo- 
Japanese War led to the birth of indirect fire, because the development of infantry rifles 
resulted in infantry being able to engage artillery units providing fire support with 
effective rifle fire. To avoid return fire, the United States began to mask its fire support 
assets behind intervening terrain and use indirect fire to continue to support the infantry 
and cavalry. Since the mortars and artillery could no longer see and engage their targets 
directly, accurately engaging targets became more challenging. To enable the guns to hit 
their targets, forward observers began to take an active part in providing fire support. 
This significantly improved artillery support during World War I, but fire support proved 
inconsistent when used during fluid battles of maneuver. In the inter-war years fire 
supporters employed radios and revised fire direction procedures to improve the 
responsiveness and accuracy of indirect fire. At the same time, the size and range of 
mortars and artillery pieces increased, increasing the amount of firepower that could be 
used against a target. From World War II through the Gulf War, mortars and artillery 
continued to get heavier with better accuracy and increased range. Mobility increased 
during this period by mounting the weapon systems on self-propelled vehicles. The 
evolution towards heavy self-propelled systems resulted in a decreasing reliance on 
towed artillery except in various light infantry forces and in the Marine Corps. In the 
1980s and 1990s, the Field Artillery Branch fielded the Paladin Howitzer system and 
began developing the Crusader Howitzer in the belief that heavy mechanized forces 


3 



would fight future conflicts conventionally. Since the United States possesses an 
overwhelming conventional force capability, few nations will choose to challenge the 
United States in conventional warfare. As a result, heavy self-propelled artillery systems 
will become increasingly irrelevant except to deter other nations fom building large 
conventional forces. Since the Field Artillery Branch dedicated a large portion of its 
political capital to the Crusader system, many people view the branch as not relevant to 
the future of the U.S. Military. As a result, the United States Army’s Field Artillery has a 
perception problem, despite having developed numerous capabilities for providing fire 
support. 

In less than 100 years, aircraft have gone from interesting ‘oddities’ used for 
observing and reconnaissance to the premiere system for delivering firepower. Primitive 
bombers were developed in World War I, but they could only engage relatively static 
targets. From his experiences in the Great War, General Giulio Douhet wrote The 
Command Of The Air, which developed his theories on the employment of airpower.4 
World War II validated Douhet’s theories on the importance of airpower. The United 
States preferred to employ strategic bombing in an attempt to bring its enemies to their 
knees. There was significant friction between the Army Air Corps and the ground forces 
during World War II in regards to providing ground support. This competition stemmed 
from the debate over whether the Army Air Corps should be its own separate service. 
After the Army Air Corps became the Air Force, there continued to be some friction 
between the Army and the Air Force over control of air assets. The Air Force placed the 
close air support mission behind its air superiority and air interdiction missions. The air 
superiority and air interdiction missions have strategic implications, while close air 
support does not. Providing close air support in Korea detracted from the strategic 
operations that the Air Force sought. In the early 1950s, the Air Force worked to become 
the dominant service by creating Strategic Air Command (SAC) and being the lead 
service involved in nuclear war fighting. The strategic implications of nuclear warfare 
minimized the role that ground forces played. Strategically, ground forces were only 
relevant in limiting a war between the superpowers from becoming an all out nuclear 

4 Giulio Douhet, The Command Of The Air, Translator: Dino Ferrari (Washington, DC: Office of Air 
Force History, 1983) 


4 



exchange. Once a nuclear exchange began, it would be fought between the air forces and 
ground combat would be largely irrelevant. During the Cold War, this view dominated 
SAC's view of warfare. With the end of the Cold War, the risk of a global nuclear war 
receded, which reduced the importance of SAC. In order to retain its standing, the Air 
Force sought to expand its roles in limited wars. This fit nicely, because without a 
counterbalancing force after the Cold War, the United States became increasingly 
involved in numerous limited wars. 

The United States has a long history of involvement in limited wars. Limited wars 
are conflicts where at least one nation seeks to limit the scale of the fighting, which . 
Nations limit the scale of a conflict by either employing minimum amounts of force 
needed to fight or by restricting the scope of the conflict to a certain area. This often 
results in the war becoming protracted. The United States fought a limited war in Korea 
by refusing to attack Chinese staging areas and logistics lines in Manchuria. Because 
limited wars are often restricted in geography, both sides are able to establish safe areas, 
where their forces can rest and reconstitute. Another way a war can be limited is if the 
strengths of the opposing forces are asymmetric. In this case, the stronger power has the 
incentive to use economy of force, one of the nine principles of warfare according to 
American doctrine, to keep the cost of the war below the value of the expected benefits 
from the conflict. During the 19'*’ century, the United States fought numerous conflicts to 
maintain open trade around the world. Often the United States employed military force in 
limited conflicts to achieve its national objectives. The United States deployed gunboats 
to China to protect it citizens and the U.S. Navy proved instrumental in opening trade 
with Japan. In the early part of the Twentieth century, the U.S. Marines deployed on 
numerous occasions to Central America to enforce U.S. policy. With the development of 
nuclear weapons, the United States government sought to limit any conflicts it fought 
because of the dangers of uncontrolled escalation. This led to with the American way of 
war. 


Historically, America used firepower to reduce the number of casualties sustained 
in past conflicts. The threat of nuclear weapons restricted how much the United States 


5 



could escalate a conflict. The United States in Korea and Vietnam sought to contain the 
fighting to a specific geographical area. Since the fighting was contained to a specific 
area, the number of strategic targets for the Air Force was limited. The Air Force 
provided a lot of support to the ground forces, because there were not a lot of competing 
missions. Also, the United States deployed large conventional formations to the fighting, 
which allowed the conventional units to bring their organic fire support assets to the 
conflicts. The invasions of Grenada and Panama in the 1980s followed this pattern of 
using both airpower and organic assets to provide fire support for the maneuver forces. 

The 1990s saw numerous changes in how the United States fought limited wars. 
The end of the Cold War decreased the importance of SAC, making Air Force assets 
available for other missions including close air support. The United States could employ 
military force without being counterbalanced by the Soviet Union, which lowered the 
risks the United States took when employing military force in limited conflicts. This 
resulted in the United States becoming involved in more limited conflicts than it had 
participated in during Cold War. The victory in the Gulf War showcased the 
overwhelming capability of airpower to support a ground offensive. The Army’s Field 
Artillery Branch identified some of the shortcomings in its support for maneuver forces 
during the Gulf War, which led to the development of the Crusader artillery system. The 
Crusader was designed to be able to support the United States Army’s heavy mechanized 
divisions. After the Gulf War, the United States became involved in many limited 
conflicts around the world. Air power became the system of choice when the United 
States employed military force. Whether firing cruise missiles at terrorist training camps 
or bombing Serbian military forces, the U.S. Air Force had the forces available to quickly 
and accurately carryout the mission. The United States became more and more dependant 
on airpower for its fire support, while the United States Army’s Field Artillery sought to 
become less relevant to limited wars as it concentrated on being prepared for 
conventional set piece battles. 

These trends were continuing to develop when the United States became involved 
in Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The United States initially began bombing 


6 



the Taliban regime to achieve the objective of forcing them to withdraw support for A1 
Qaeda. Within a week, the administration realized that the Taliban would continue to 
support terrorists and therefore needed to be removed from power. The United States 
needed the support of the Northern Alliance to eliminate the Taliban and deployed 
Special Forces teams to support the Northern Alliance. The Special Forces teams 
operated with the Northern Alliance forces and were supported by air strikes. With the 
targeting information from the Special Forces teams, the Air Force weakened the Taliban 
allowing the Northern Alliance and Pashtun insurgents to rapidly take control of 
Afghanistan. The United States continued to deploy light forces to Afghanistan to search 
for A1 Qaeda personnel. This success was hailed as the ‘Afghan’ model of warfare; a 
small unit with air support could defeat larger, more conventional forces. 5 The small unit 
did not have to bring its own firepower and could rely exclusively on the fire support 
provided from the air. Dr Biddle examined numerous battles including, the battles at Tora 
Bora and Operation Anaconda, and found that air support could not dislodge or destroy 
the A1 Qaeda and Taliban forces defending during the battles once the A1 Qaeda and 
Taliban forces developed countermeasures to the air strikes. The air strikes suppressed 
the Taliban and A1 Qaeda forces, but when the air strikes ended; the enemy forces were 
no longer suppressed. As a result the Special Forces operating on the ground encountered 
limits to the effectiveness of airpower. 

During the Afghan campaign, air support proved very effective. On numerous 
occasions the air strikes destroyed Taliban positions lowering the morale of Taliban 
forces and raising the morale of coalition forces. Without any competing missions. Air 
Force combat air patrols were almost always available even though aircraft were still 
restricted by weather and preferred to operate at night. When combined with the newer 
precision guided munitions, air support proved lethal against exposed Taliban and A1 
Qaeda positions. At the beginning of the conflict, the Taliban forces were not prepared 
for the accuracy and destructiveness of U.S. air power. This resulted in the destruction of 
numerous Taliban forces. Many Taliban fighters when faced with the impressive power 
of the air strikes chose to change sides and ally themselves with the Northern Alliance. 

5 Biddle, Afghanistan And The Future Of Warfare: Implications For Army And Defense Policy, 1 


7 



The size of the Air Force component deployed into Afghanistan was also small 
because the support assets for the air support were maintained in other friendly countries. 
This has two advantages: one, the air base is more secure, because it is not near the 
fighting and two, a single airbase can support multiple countries saving money in 
construction costs. 

As the campaign continued, the Taliban and A1 Qaeda forces learned to adapt to 
the overwhelming airpower. Through employment of cover and concealment, the Taliban 
avoided being spotted and engaged from standoff distances. Also, the Taliban began to 
use significant overhead cover under protected overhangs, which protected their 
defensive positions from being destroyed by aircraft. As fighting progressed, it became 
evident that destroying a position was far more difficult than suppressing an enemy 
position. When the air strikes ended, Taliban forces climbed out of their dug-in caves and 
resumed fighting. This problem was not new. During World War I, German forces 
hunkered down inside their dugouts waiting for the allies’ massive artillery barrages to 
end. When the barrages ended, the German defenders then returned to their defensive 
positions, because they knew an attack was coming. This tactic prevented the allied 
forces from achieving surprise at the tactical level. 

Once the enemy forces were alerted to an imminent ground attack, the ground 
forces had to traverse exposed terrain under enemy observation. The bombs being used 
by the Air Force were large enough that assaulting infantry had to cross hundreds of 
meters of open terrain after the air strikes had ended. This gave the Taliban defenders a 
chance to recover after being bombed. Since mortars have a much smaller burst radius, 
they can be employed much closer to assaulting infantry, enabling the infantry to assault 
the enemy position before the enemy has recovered from their suppression. Another old 
problem that resurfaced was the time it took for aircraft to respond to an air strike 
request. The time elapsed from a request for an air strike to bombs being dropped took 
from 26 minutes to several hours. 6 Against stationary fergets, this is good, but if the 

6 MG Franklin L. Hagenbeck, “Afghanistan: Fire Support For Operation Anaconda,” interview by 
Robert FI. McElroy, FA Journal, ed. Patrecia Slayden Hollis, (September-October 2002), 8 

8 



targets are fleeting then 26 minutes is too long. Because artillery and mortars belong to 
the ground commander, obtaining clearance to fire on a target and communicating 
between the observer and the firing unit are much quicker. Once the Taliban had learned 
to implement counter measures, the air support became less effective. 

Artillery and mortars have capabilities that currently can be exploited to cover the 
weaknesses of air power. By employing artillery and mortars using non-standard 
methods, fire support can be utilized to increase the security of the ground forces. The 
accuracy of mortars and howitzers, when using the five requirements for accurate 
predicted fire is good enough outside of urban terrain and considerably cheaper than a 
precision guided munition (PGM). Artillery raids and presence missions are two non¬ 
standard missions designed to increase the visibility and coverage of fire support 
elements. An artillery raid is comprised of a firing unit moving to a forward location to 
occupy a temporary firing point in order to support another maneuver unit. A classic 
example of the artillery raid occurred at the la Drang Valley battles when a pair of 
artillery batteries airlifted into LZ Falcon to support the units enga^d at LZ X-Ray. ^ 

Another non-standard mission developed from the Balkan peacekeeping missions 
is the presence mission, which is closely related to the artillery raid. The purpose of the 
presence mission is to visibly occupy a firing position enabling the various factions to 
observe the operation. The presence mission’s objective is to compel opposing factions 
into complying with the U.S. forces and deter acts of violence by demonstrating the 
capability to support the U.S. forces. Other non-standard missions developed in the 
Balkans include employing illumination rounds as marking rounds and smoke rounds as a 
non-lethal alternative to firing high explosives. The employment of non-standard 
missions enables mortar and artillery units to operate in a way that improves the visibility 
and availability of fire support. While airpower, using precision-guided munitions, can 
deliver more firepower accurately to a target, artillery and mortars provide light infantry 
formations with unique capabilities that cannot be leplicated by massive amounts of 
airpower. 

7 Harold G. Moore, We Were Soldiers Once...And Young (New York: Random House, 1992), 67 


9 



Operation Enduring Freedom became the example of the ‘new’ model of warfare, 
according to its proponents. The model argues that artillery is obsolete, because air power 
provides heavier firepower in support of ground forces, is more mobile and is less 
vulnerable, since it can operate from outside the combat zone. Dr Biddle’s paper 
challenges this view arguing that the Afghanistan campaign was an example of orthodox 
theater warfare. 8 As a test for the continuing relevancy of artillery in limited conflicts. 
Operation Enduring Freedom proved to be a good test. The new model argues that air 
support was all that was needed. In Afghanistan, the Air Force had no other competing 
missions, because the Taliban’s air force and anti-aircraft capabilities had been destroyed 
by the time U.S. ground forces arrived in Afghanistan. On numerous occasions air power 
was unavailable or unable to support ground maneuver forces. The large burst radius of 
the bombs used by the Air Force, limited airpower’s effectiveness to ground forces in 
close contact with the enemy. Ground commanders still need fire support systems that are 
under their command to ensure responsive fire support. This demonstrates the continuing 
relevance of ground based fire support. 

At the same time, artillery is widely perceived as becoming obsolete. This stems 
from the ongoing attempt by the United States Army’s Field Artillery Branch to compete 
with the U.S. Air Force in providing massive firepower in combat. The cancellation of 
the Crusader artillery system serves as a reminder that artillery needs to focus more on 
supporting the maneuver commander and less on competing with the Air Force to 
provide massive fire support. Prior to the end of the Cold War, the Field Artillery evolved 
towards providing more firepower. The field artillery community needs to return to its 
roots and focus on providing better support to the maneuver commander. 


8 Stephen Biddle, Afghanistan And The Future Of Warfare: Implications For Army And Defense 
Policy (Carlise, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2002), 1-58 


10 



n. HISTORY OF FIRE SUPPORT 


To understand the utility of fire support assets in small wars, an understanding of 
how American doctrine has evolved must be attained. Beginning with the Industrial 
Revolution in the late 18^’’ and early 19'*’ centuries and then again in the 20^’’ century, 
warfare experienced a significant change and then again in the 20'*’ century. Armies grew 
to massive sizes beginning in the Napoleonic era. This resulted in the development of the 
staff system capable of enabling military leaders to mold millions of soldiers into an 
organized force. 9 The militaries of the powerful nations organized their forces and 
developed strategies and tactics to fight massive wars. 

Major General C.E. Callwell first used the term small wars to describe any wars 
and operations that were not massive wars.io When the massive armies engaged in small 
wars, they brought with them their strategies and tactics developed for massive wars and 
employed them in small wars. The U.S. doctrine employed in small wars was adapted 
from the U.S. doctrine for fighting massive wars. Initially, when the U.S. became 
involved in a small war, it employed its doctrine for massive wars and then modified the 
doctrine when weaknesses became apparent. American fire support doctrine followed this 
historical pattern. 

The history of American fire support doctrine developed from the interrelation of 
three factors: the evolution of field artillery support, the development of airpower and 
past experience in small wars. The evolution of how field artillery is employed in support 
of operations established the basic doctrine employed in fire support. The development of 
airpower affected all aspects of American doctrine and operations. America’s past 
experiences in small wars provided valuable lessons that can be applied to future 


9 Martin Van Creveld, Command In War (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 
1985), 104-105 

10 C.E. Callwell, Small Wars, 3'^'* Edition (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska, 1996), 21 


11 



conflicts. All of these factors have affected American doctrine significantly over the last 
century, but the last ten years have been the most important. 

The last decade proved to be the most important, because the American 
predominance in high intensity non- nuclear combat has forced most nations to limit how 
they challenge the U.S. military. The Gulf War, in 1991, demonstrated to many nations 
that challenging the United States in a massive war would lead to the challenger being 
defeated. Three years after seeing how well America fought massive wars, a Somali 
warlord forced the withdrawal of American forces from Mogadishu in a small war. Many 
nations noticed the Somali’s success at forcing the U.S. to withdraw from their country 
and sought to emulate the Somalis. The United States can expect to be involved in limited 
wars more often as a result. 

The United States needs to be prepared to wage these limited wars economically 
and effectively. The massive application of overwhelming firepower is not economical 
and historically has not been very effective in small wars. Yet, the United States has 
come to depend on the application of massive overwhelming firepower to achieve its 
objectives. The U.S. military has, over time, evolved from using artillery to provide 
massive fire support to relying on airpower to provide this massive firepower. 

A. THE RISE OF FIRE SUPPORT 

Before World War I, most fire support was provided by artillery firing directly at 
the enemy. The development of the repeating rifle provided infantry with the ability to 
engage artillery units from a much greater distance. Artillery units had to be masked 
behind terrain features or positioned much further from the enemy to be able to operate 
without interference. Direct fire consists of seeing the target being engaged, while 
indirect fire engages a target that is unseen, n In order to engage an unseen target using 
indirect fire effectively, the firing unit had to have communications with an observer who 
could see the target. Often the observer consisted of the firing unit commander. The 

11 Boyd L. Dastrup, King of Battle, a Branch History of the U.S. Army’s Field Artillery (Fort Monroe, 
Virginia: Office of the Command Historian, 1993), 317-18 

12 



commander would either operate with the infantry or, more often, from a hilltop halfway 
between the guns and the supported infantry. 12 Early in World War I, the forward 
observers serving with the infantry served as a relay for targeting information. The unit 
commander operating on the hill separated from the supported infantry unit would often 
make the tactical decisions. The separation between the tactical decision maker and the 
supported infantry led to slow response times and poor communication. 

As World War I (fevolved into trench warfare, breaking through the opposing 
trench lines and suppressing the defenders required massive firepower. To generate the 
required firepower against the enemy, massive barrages employing hundreds of artillery 
pieces firing thousands of shells were necessary. To coordinate these barrages, the 
commanders coordinating the fires operated at extremely high levels, usually corps and 
division level. 13 These observation posts often had good communication with the firing 
units, but encountered difficulties in communicating with the supported infantry. This 
communication became incredibly difficult when the infantry was attacking or moving 
forward to exploit a successful attack. To counter this, commanders developed a rigid fire 
plan detailing where the artillery would fire and for how long. As long as the plan went 
well, this worked, but if the infantry was delayed or made unexpected progress, the fire 
plan could not be adapted. Many offensives and attacks failed, because the attacking 
infantry had no way to coordinate with the artillery. British infantry often became 
separated from their supporting barrage during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916, 
which destroyed the synergy the commanders were trying to achieve. The German Alpine 
Corps found itself blocked by its own slow moving artillery barrage during the Verdun 
campaign resulting in lost opportunities. 

Some improvised solutions were developed, but they proved unreliable. Carrier 
pigeons and messengers might not make it back to the supporting artillery. Smoke and 
confusion might obscure the signal rockets and semaphore messages. Field telephones 

12 Bruce I. Gundmundsson, On Artillery (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 1993), 69-70 

13 Bruce I. Gundmundsson, On Artillery, 71 

14 Bruce I. Gundmundsson, On Artillery, 71 


13 



were good, but the wire would often be torn- up by enemy artillery and if on the offensive 
the wire had to laid before it could be used. The communications problems were not 
solved until reliable radios became available. 

In the summer of 1918, during the attack at St. Mihiel, an artillery battery was 
assigned to directly support and move with each infantry brigade to provide better 
support. Though the batteries varied in their effectiveness, the infantry commanders 
appreciated having the increased firepower at their disposal. The horse drawn artillery 
had difficulties moving across the broken ground and wire entanglements. To increase 
mobility, the U.S. Army used self-propelled artillery during the St. Mihiel Offensive. 16 
Since the artillery was mounted on tractors in an improvised manner, the self-propelled 
artillery was not decisive in the battle. The self-propelled and motorized artillery proved 
useful, which led to the war department converting some heavy artillery units from horse- 
drawn to tractor-drawn artillery. 

Though World War I led to the development of mechanized artillery, the use of 
forward observers and the assigning of artillery to directly support infantry commanders, 
the key lesson learned in World War I “was that the conflict had been dominated by 
heavy artillery .”17 These developments allowed artillery to become part of the combined 
arms team. Heinz Guderian believed that artillery played an important part in supporting 
the maneuver commander, the term by which infantry and armor commanders became 
known. Successful artillery employment during World War I was limited by technical 
progress. The inter-war years and World War II would provide many of the technical 
solutions to fire support. Between World War I and World War II, the United States Field 
Artillery converted most of its horse drawn artillery units to motorized artillery. To solve 
the communications problem, forward observers received radios to communicate with the 
firing units. Motorization and the radio enabled artillery units to spread out further and 

15 Dastrup, King of Battle, 170-171 

16 Dastrup, King of Battle, 174-75 

17 Bruce I. Gundmundsson, On Artillery, 107 

18 Heinz Guderian, Achtung-Panzer!, Translated by Christopher Duffy (London: Cassell & Co, 1992) 


14 



become more mobile. The negative side of the technological advances was that artillery 
batteries could not mass their fires effectively or quickly. 

In the 1930s, the Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, began to revise 
how firing data for the guns was computed. In World War I, the observers adjusted each 
artillery battery onto the target. This was a slow and cumbersome process. In 1931, the 
director of the Gunnery Department at the Field Artillery School, Major Carlos Brewer 
developed a new method of massing fires: 


Major Brewer concluded that using terrain features or giving “guessed at” 
coordinates of the targets to the batteries to plot was part of the problem of 
inadequate close support in 1917-18. Brewer ... revised observation 
methods, creating a firing chart on which the base point (the target) was 
plotted, and located battery positions through survey. In the spring of 
1931, they used these innovations to mass battalion fire accurately after 
registering one battery on a target without all forward observers being able 
to see the target and without maps. 19 


By establishing “common” survey between artillery units, multiple batteries could 
mass their fires accurately and quickly. To organize the firing units, fire direction centers 
were established at the battalion and battery levels. These centers had the task of 
computing the firing data instead of the forward observers. The fire direction center took 
into account the individual piece locations and other special corrections and adjustments. 
Battalions could now mass fire in ten minutes and batteries could accurately fire on 
targets within five minutes. 20 


After observing the success of the German self-propelled artillery in 1939-1940, 
the United States began to develop self-propelled artillery. 21 The success of the German 
army’s Blitzkrieg tactics spurred the United States to develop mechanized and armored 
forces of its own. The artillery supporting those forces became heavier and longer ranged. 
The improvement in radio communications led to artillery providing fire support from 

19 Dastrup, King of Battle, 197 

20 Dastrup, King of Battle, 197 

21 Dastrup, King of Battle, 205 

15 



longer distances. The eight-inch gun could fire a 200-pound round 35,000 yards.22 Self- 
propelled artillery also proved its worth during the war by being able to emplace and 
displace far faster than towed field artillery, which took hours to emplace and displace for 
some of the heavier towed artillery pieces. This enabled the artillery to rapidly shift 
positions and mass fires wherever the maneuver commander needed overwhelming 
firepower. 

Reflecting upon the war in Europe, US Forces, European Theater 
(USFET), concluded late in 1945 that firepower and maneuver were the 
fundamental elements of combat. The application of firepower preceded 
successful maneuver to permit the infantry and armor to take objectives 
without serious loss of life or injury. 23 

By the time the U.S. Military fought the Korean War, American servicemen 
expected that anytime they called for fire support, they would shortly receive massive 
barrages in response. The static nature of the Korean War enabled the U.S. Army to 
station large numbers of artillery batteries behind the frontline. This guaranteed that most 
patrols were within range of friendly artillery. 

The importance of artillery in the Korean War contrasted with the peacetime view 
that artillery was unimportant. In peacetime exercises the artillery’s participation was 
often left to the imagination. As the strategic utility of nuclear weapons became more 
visible, the value of direct support artillery appeared to decline. The development of 
tactical nuclear weapons raised the question of the utility of large ground forces because 
they were vulnerable to nuclear weapons. With the view that massing was no longer 
important because a single cannon could fire a nuclear weapon, the artillery refocused on 
providing direct fire support to maneuver units. This was accomplished by attaching a 
six-to-twelve gun battalion to each battle group of a Pentomic Division. 24 


22 Dastrup, King of Battle, 237 

23 Dastrup, King of Battle, 226 

24 Bruce 1. Gundmundsson, On Artillery, 147-149 


16 



The Vietnam War forced the U.S. Army to re-evaluate itself and prepare to fight 
limited wars. Since the insurgents operated in small units, the Viet Cong seldom 
presented a worthwhile target for a massive army to attack. Thus, massing multiple 
battalions became less important. To combat an enemy who was weaker than the U.S. 
Army, the artillery had to be responsive across the entire country. The artillery battalions 
spread their batteries across the country, stationed at ‘fire bases,’ to improve coverage. 
With the vast coverage, artillery’s main mission became providing immediate fire support 
to every infantry patrol that came into contact with the enemy. As the war continued, 
patrols became smaller and smaller as their mission \\as to find the enemy and then let 
overwhelming firepower destroy the enemy. Close air support and the interlocking 
network of firebases provided the firepower. 

Vietnam reminded the United States that nuclear weapons were weapons of last 
resort and would not be utilized in most conflicts. In spite of the Vietnam experience, the 
U.S. Army spent much of the 1970s and 1980s preparing for war in Northern Europe 
with the Warsaw Pact nations. The impact of the preparation for war in Northern Europe 
affected the design of many of the United States Army’s weapon systems. The Apache 
attack helicopter and many artillery systems were designed for the specific threat 
presented by the Red Army. The artillery went back to the organizational design from 
World War II where it prepared to mass on enemy troop concentrations with massive 
amounts of firepower. Once again the artillery worked to develop the ability to mass fires 
quickly and accurately. 

To mass fires quickly, the drill for artillery crews has been standardized and 
automated as much as possible. The standardization of each crewman’s tasks reduced 
confusion and ensured accuracy. In the 1980s, the Battery Computer System quickly 
computed firing data for the battery’s eight guns by including corrections for the earth’s 
rotation, the weather, different production lots of ammunition and propellant, the 
temperature of the propellant and the variations of the cannon tube from other tubes. All 
of these factors affected the accuracy of the round. By accounting for them, cannons and 
mortars became very accurate. 


17 



The range probable error for the army’s 155mm M198 Towed Howitzer at 18,000 
meters is 52 meters and the probable error for the 105mm MlAl at 11,000 meters is 22 
meters.25 The burst radius for the 155mm HE round is 50 meters and the burst radius for 
the 105mm HE round is 35 meters. These probable errors are based on the older tubes; 
the newer cannons are even more accurate. At the maximum range of the howitzers the 
rounds will generally have effects on the targets. The U.S. Army developed the 
Copperhead Easer Guided round to attack moving and pinpoint targets using the 155mm 
cannon. At the end of the Cold War, development began on the Crusader Artillery 
System, which was designed to operate in a highly lethal battlefield against enemy 
mechanized forces. 

The speed with which an artillery unit could respond to a call for fire had 
improved as well. A trained artillery battalion could fire on a target in less than five 
minutes and a battery could fire in less than two minutes, halving the time from the 
1940s. This data is based on the standards for Ml 10s (eight-inch), M109A3s and M198 
155mm howitzers. The newer M109A6 Paladins and improved Ml98 towed howitzers 
use modem cannon tubes, which are more accurate and longer ranged. 

The Eield Artillery advanced over the Twentieth century from being useful 
against relatively large static targets to being able to attack point and moving targets. At 
the same time, the Eield Artillery became heavier and planned to become even heavier 
with the new Cmsader Artillery System. With the end of the Cold War, people’s 
expectations towards how future wars would be fought changed radically. 

B. THE ADVENT OF AIR POWER 

The invention of heavier than air flight 100 years ago resulted in a revolution in 
how nations fought wars. Many believe air power to be critically important to victory. 
Yet, the Vietnamese and Afghanis demonstrated that American and Soviet dominance of 

25 FT 105-H-7, (Washington D.C.: Department of the Army, 20 May 1971), 208 & FT 155-AM-2 
(Washington D.C.: Department of the Army, June 1991), 344 

18 



the air did not ensure victory. The evolution of aircraft and the strategy of employing 
them affected every aspect of the U.S. military. Just as the growth of artillery served as a 
substitute for committing maneuver forces, air power evolved as a substitute for ground 
forces with the intent of reducing U.S. casualties. 

In World War I, aircraft were not advanced enough to play more than a minor role 
in support of ground forces. The range and speed of fighters restricted them to operating 
over friendly areas or just a few miles from the front. The Germans conducted some 
strategic borrbing of England using zeppelins. The zeppelins had a small bomb load and 
were vulnerable to fire due to the hydrogen gas that filled them. The zeppelins bombed at 
night from great height to avoid anti-aircraft fire and enemy fighters, which resulted in 
poor accuracy. “Still, the specter of Teutonic leviathans cruising the night sky miles 
above the earth and scattering death willy-nilly shook the British public badly,” and 
threatened support for the British war effort. 26 However, British morale held and the 
zeppelins proved too vulnerable. 

At the front, aircraft performed reconnaissance missions. The aircraft observed 
enemy dispositions and located targets for the ground-based artillery. The bombers of 
World War I carried small bomb loads, had a limited range and were vulnerable to air 
defenses. Like the zeppelins, the bombers had an insignificant effect on the outcome of 
battles and the war. The biggest effect that airmen had on the war was that they captured 
the public’s attention and were lionized. War in the air gained the reputation of being a 
civilized contest between modem day knights, while the Western Front degenerated into 
a hellish world that consumed men. Many viewed air power as a cheap alternative to the 
costly attrition of the Western Front. 

After World War I, numerous theorists began to extol the value of air power at the 
same time that aircraft improved significantly. The U.S. Army conducted experiments to 
determine the effectiveness of aircraft. Concentrating in the realm of theory, Giulio 
Douhet, an Italian officer, wrote about how control of the air would lead to control of the 


26 Stephen Coonts, War In The Air (New York, New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1996), 1 

19 



sea and land. He believed that it was impossible to stop a well-organized bomber attack. 
The bomber force could then devastate the war making capability of the enemy country. 
Douhet felt that the country that dominated and controlled the air would be the victor in 
war: 


To have command of the air means to be in a position to wield offensive 
power so great it defies human imagination. ... In short, it means to be in a 
position to win. To be defeated in the air, on the other hand, is finally to be 
defeated and to be at the mercy of the enemy, with no chance at all of 
defending oneself, compelled to accept whatever terms he sees fit to 

dictate.27 


Because of the dominance of air power, Douhet argued that the ‘Shock and Awe’ of an 
air campaign would bring the opposing country to its knees. 


At the same time that Douhet developed his theories on air power. Brigadier 
General William Mitchell, an American proponent of air power, demonstrated the 
importance of air power for the United States. In a 1921 experiment, BG Mitchell 
bombed and sank the battleship Ostfriesland, succeeding where the British main battle 
fleet had failed at the Battle of Jutland. 28 At the Battle of Jutland, the British failed to 
sink any of the German battleships that they encountered. BG Mitchell became an 
outspoken proponent for the formation of an air force as a separate branch of the armed 
services. Major Carl Spaatz also believed that the air force needed to be more than just a 
supporting arm to ground forces and should operate independently. 29 By the 1930s, the 
Army Air Corps developed a doctrine based on using heavy bombers to conduct 
precision daylight attacks. 30 The Army Air Corps tested this doctrine during World War 

n. 


27 Giulio Douhet, The Command Of The Air, Translator: Dino Ferrari (Washington, DC: Office of Air 
Force History, 1983), 23 

28 David Jablonsky, Roots of Strategy, Book 4 (Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 
1999), 416 

29 Herman S. Wolk, The Struggle For Air Force Independence (Washington, DC: Air Force History 
and Museums Program, 1997), 8 

30 Herman S. Wolk, The Struggle For Air Force Independence, 18 


20 



While the United States was developing a doctrine for strategic bombing, the 
Royal Air Force (RAF) became involved in numerous struggles with insurgents in the 
1930s. Initially, bombing served as an effective and cheap method of maintaining order. 
As time passed and the insurgents became used to air attacks, the RAF needed to use 
more and larger air strikes to accomplish the mission. Critics of the RAF accused the 
RAF “of being callous and indifferent to the casualties it caused.”3i An unexpected cost 
of using air power became the horror one’s own civilians felt as they experienced the 
suffering being inflicted on the civilian victims of bombing. Douhet and other air power 
enthusiasts had not considered the costs of collateral damage when developing their 
theories on air power. During World War II, many justified the cost by arguing that allied 
cities had already been bombed. 

The early experiences of the Army Air Corps in World War II appeared to 
validate the doctrine of daylight precision bombing. The Battle of the Bismarck Sea took 
place on 1 March 1943 when over 200 land-based bombers with fighter escorts destroyed 
an entire Japanese troop convoy. This validated the importance of command of the air 
because the Japanese never risked lar^ troop transports in regions where the Americans 
dominated the air space. 32 In early 1943 in the European Theater, the Army Air Force 
(AAF) began to employ its doctrine of daylight precision bombing. These first small 
missions concentrated on targets close to England and were escorted by fighters. The 
early missions suffered light losses. This led the AAE’s leaders to believe that massive 
bombing raids by unescorted bombers could destroy the German war machine with slight 
losses. 33 Six months later, the Eighth Army Air Eorce suffered heavy losses during 
unescorted raids against Germany. This raised questions about Douhet’s theories on the 
success of strategic bombing. Since the initial perception formed about strategic bombing 
was positive, the positive perception would hold sway over the leaders even after it had 
been discredited. Once an escort fighter that could support the bombers for the length of 


31 Philip A. Towle, Pilots And Rebels (McLean, Virginia: Brassey’s (US) Inc, 1989), 53 

32 Samuel E. Morison, The Two Ocean War (USA: Atlantic-Little, Brown Books, 1963), 273 

33 Jefferey G. Barlow, Revolt of the Admirals (Herndon, Virginia: Brassey’s, 1998), 14 


21 



its mission was developed, the U.S. returned to trying to destroy the German war effort 
by an independent air campaign of strategic bombing. 

After World War II, the United States conducted a survey of the effects of 
strategic bombing. The survey found that strategic bombing did not break the morale of 
the Germans or Japanese and did not lead to civil unrest, which would have caused the 
two countries to collapse. 34 This contrasted with the great damage done to German and 
Japanese cities by the strategic bombing campaign. The AAF commanders argued that 
the failure of strategic bombing to achieve its goals resulted from a lack of resources and 
the diversion of forces to support ground and naval campaigns. 35 Had AAF assets and 
resources not been diverted to supporting ground attacks, AAF commanders believed the 
strategic bombing campaign could have achieved its objective of forcing the Axis to 
surrender without the costly ground campaigns. The doctrine of strategic bombing gained 
credibility with the invention of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons enabled a single 
bomber to inflict catastrophic damage on large areas. The development of nuclear 
weapons strengthened the argument that bombers can devastate an opposing country’s 
ability to make war rendering expensive land campaigns irrelevant. 

Part of the reason the AAF commanders fought so hard for an independent 
bombing campaign and against the ground support missions stemmed from their desire to 
become an independent service. The effort to become a separate service gained 
credibility from having a mission to dominate the air and conduct independent air 
operations. Although having the mission of supporting ground and sea campaigns 
supported the argument that an air force should be a subordinate part of the Army and 
Navy, just as the U.S. Marine Corps was a subordinate part of the U.S. Navy. To become 
a separate service from the U.S. Army, the Army Air Force had to justify that an air force 
does more than support ground forces. The Army Air Force won the fight to become a 
separate service in 1947, becoming the U.S. Air Force. In the consolidation and 
reorganization of the late 1940s, the U.S. Air Force constantly fought with the U.S. Navy 

34 Stephen T. Hosmer, Psychological Effects Of U.S. Air Operations In Four Wars 1941-1991 (Santa 
Monica, California: RAND, 1996), 9-15 

35 Jefferey G. Barlow, Revolt of the Admirals, 21 

22 



and U.S. Army about roles and missions to maintain it independence. The U.S. Air Force 
fought many of these battles with the U.S. Navy over control of specific types of 
aircraft. 36 Since President Truman placed a cap of $15 billion on the overall defense 
budget and each of the services felt the budget was too low, the services became locked 
into a zero sum game for budget dollars. This was a game where budget gains by one 
service, caused a corresponding loss to the budgets of the other services. 37 This 
competition for a larger budget led to parochialism between the services, which has 
continued to foster competition between the various services. 

Part of the competition has continued to drive the Air Force’s continued reliance 
on strategic bombing over ground support. In both the Korean War and the Vietnam War, 
strategic bombing advocates believed that a strategic bombing campaign would raise the 
cost of continued resistance to the point where the North Koreans and North Vietnamese 
would be willing to negotiate. The North Koreans, their Chinese supporters and the North 
Vietnamese proved very resilient to coercive bombing strategies. Unfortunately, strategic 
bombing often failed to compel the United States’ enemies in limited wars. Since World 
War II, the United States seldom has had the will to pay the political costs of 
unconstrained bombing, when unconstrained bombing could have been used to coerce its 
enemies. Unconstrained bombing means bombing missions carried out without regard for 
collateral damage. Our enemies could turn to the Soviet Union for aid to mitigate the 
costs of strategic bombing and increase the costs to the United States. 38 

General Mark Clark, after assuming command of UN forces in Korea, authorized 
“an air pressure campaign that would make the war too costly for the communists to 
continue.”39 Most targets of strategic value in North Korea had already been destroyed 
and the Far East Air Force (FEAF) was not authorized to attack tarots in China and the 
Soviet Union. The lack of attackable targets limited the effectives of the strategic 
bombing campaign. At the same time, the FEAF suffered losses to Soviet and Chinese 

36 Herman S. Wolk, The Struggle For Air Force Independence, 163-167 

37 Jefferey G. Barlow, Revolt of the Admirals, 162 

38 Stephen T. Hosmer, Psychological Effects Of U.S. Air Operations In Four Wars 1941-1991, 18-101 

39 Stephen T. Hosmer, Psychological Effects Of U.S. Air Operations In Four Wars 1941-1991, 18 

23 



pilots defending North Korea, but based north of the Yalu River in safe areas. With no 
other useful targets, the Air Force concentrated on conducting air interdiction and close 
air support missions. Roughly half of all sorties flown in Korea were air interdiction or 
close air support missions. These missions assisted the UN coalition forces in preventing 
the North Koreans from conquering South Korea. Since North Korea realized it could not 
conquer South Korea, the communists chose to negotiate. Air power assisted in 
compelling the communists to negotiate by preventing them from being able to win. 
When negotiations dragged on, the U.S. began destroying dams and North Korean rice 
crops, which forced the North Koreans to resume negotiations when combined with 
nuclear threats. The successful campaign of air interdiction and combat air support led to 
the negotiated armistice. The air power proponents claimed the failure of strategic 
bombing resulted from the limits placed on it by politicians.40 

During the Vietnam War, politicians once again placed restrictions on the 
strategic bombing campaign, but this time the strategic bombing campaign failed to 
compel the North Vietnamese to negotiate. The North Vietnamese were not satisfied with 
a draw, they wanted to conquer South Vietnam. By manipulating the negotiations, the 
North Vietnamese were able to minimize the effectiveness of the strategic bombing. The 
North Vietnamese sent sapper teams to Thailand to attack the bombers on the ground 
occasionally. While these attacks failed to interfere with the bombing campaign, they 
highlighted that airbases could be attacked outside of the theater.4i As a client state of the 
Soviet Union, North Vietnam received defensive aid, which made bombing missions into 
North Vietnam hazardous. The pilots, who were shot down over North Vietnam, became 
one of the biggest bargaining chips the North Vietnamese had against the United States. 

At the same time that strategic bombing was failing to achieve decisive results, 
the air interdiction and close air support missions devastated Viet Cong and North 
Vietnamese Army (NVA) units. Michael Herr, a war correspondent, reported that B-52s 
dropped 120,000,000 pounds of bombs in defense of the marine base at Khe San over a 

40 Stephen T. Hosmer, Psychological Effects Of U.S. Air Operations In Four Wars 1941-1991, 18-21 
&99-101 

41 Alan Vick, Snakes in the Eagle’s Nest (Santa Monica, California: RAND, 1995), 83 

24 



three-week period.42 The North Vietnamese negotiated a settlement to eliminate the U.S. 
Air Force’s participation in the defense of South Vietnam. When Hanoi launched the 
Easter Offensive in 1972, the South Vietnamese defeated the attack with massive support 
from U.S. airpower. The air interdiction, including the Linebacker bombing campaigns, 
and close air support missions are credited with being an integral part of stopping the 
Easter Offensive. The close air support and air interdiction missions forced the North 
Vietnamese to the negotiating table, when strategic bombing failed to achieve this 
objective.43 The North Vietnamese did not attempt to conquer South Vietnam again until 
1975, when the United States could not intervene because of domestic political 

constraints. 44 

Throughout the Cold War, strategic bombing was part of nuclear deterrence. By 
threatening the Soviet Union with a nuclear holocaust, the United States successfully 
deterred the Soviet Union from aggressive action in Europe. Since the United States 
could not compete with the Soviet Union in manpower, it was thought the U.S. Army 
could not defeat the Soviet Union in conventional ground combat. The United States 
increased the size and capability of the U.S. Air Eorce as a counter-balance to Soviet 
conventional capabilities. The end of the Cold War left the United States with a huge 
military capability and no competitor to deter the United States from employing its forces 
in situations short of vital national interests. 

C. THE U.S. INVOLVEM ENT IN SMALL WARS DURING THE COLD WAR 

During the Cold War, the United States became involved in many small wars. 
Since the United States and Soviet Union could not settle their differences through direct 
conflict, both countries used surrogate forces to disrupt the other’s sphere of influence. 
These actions often resulted in the super-powers becoming involved in small wars on the 
periphery of their spheres of influence. Small wars served as distractions from the U.S.- 

42 Michael Herr, Dispatches (New York, New York: Avon Books, 1978), 155 

43 Stephen T. Hosmer, Psychological Effects Of U.S. Air Operations In Four Wars 1941-1991, 36-40 

44 Robert A. Pape, Bombing To Win (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1996), 204-205 


25 



Soviet competition during the Cold War. As a result, every deployment not directly 
involved in the on going confrontation with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics 
(USSR) could be considered a small war. Both Korea and Vietnam qualify as small wars 
because they distracted the United States from concentrating on its main rival, the USSR. 
The objective of the super-powers involved in a small war was to minimize the costs of 
winning the small war. 45 

The United States initially attempted to solve the Korean conflict with a show of 
force after being surprised by the invasion in June 1950. Many believed that the North 
Korean’s would withdrawal back to the north after they realized the American military 
had arrived. Initially, the United States committed its forces in a piecemeal fashion to the 
conflict. When the first battalion task force deployed to Korea commanded by Lieutenant 
Colonel Charles Smith, their mission was to halt the advance of the North Koreans. 
Brigadier General John Church told LTC Smith that his task was supposed “to support 
the ROK’s and give them moral support.”46 By demonstrating that the United States was 
committed to protecting the Republic of Korea, the United States hoped to avoid 
committing significant forces to the region. Unfortunately, Task Force Smith failed to 
prove a credible deterrent to the North Koreans and the United States found itself forced 
to deploy significant forces to the region in order to roll back the North Korean invasion. 

The tragic failure to stem the North Korean invasion forced the United States to 
commit the Eighth United States Army (EUSA) to Korea. The United States employed 
maneuver warfare against the North Koreans. By conducting a landing at Inchon, the 
United States was able to cut the supplies to the North Korean Army and decisively 
defeated the enemy. The United States continued to use maneuver warfare to pursue 
fleeing North Korean units and to overrun North Korea. The American doctrine of using 
maneuver warfare to bypass enemy forces and strike at their logistics base was developed 
in World War II. General Douglas MacArthur employed this doctrine effectively during 
the island hopping campaign in the Pacific. The maneuver doctrine proved successful 

45 C.E. Callwell, Small Wars, 3'^'^ Edition, 21 and Paul Kennedy, The Rise And Fall Of The Great 
Powers (New York, New York: Random House, Inc, 1987), 373-395 

46 t.R. Eehrenbach, This Kind 0/Vkar (Herndon, Virginia: Brassey’s, 1963), 66 

26 



against the North Korean Army’s mechanized and logistic dependant forces in the more 
open country of South Korea, but failed when the Chinese committed their Army and 
fought in the mountains of North Korea. 4^ 

In November 1950, the Chinese communists, commanding the People’s 
Liberation Army (PLA), joined the fighting in Korea to support and prop up the North 
Koreans. The PLA mainly consisted of infantry forces with limited logistical support. By 
attacking in massive human wave assaults along the entire front, the PLA found the 
seams between enemy units and infiltrate forces in and around the enemy units. The 
infiltrators enabled the PLA to isolate the units being attacked, cutting off their supply 
routes. The terrain favored these tactics, because the United States’ mechanized forces 
were road bound while the PLA could operate in any terrain and did not depend on the 
road network. Despite suffering heavy casualties from United States’ air and artillery 
support, the PLA successfully forced the United States to withdraw below the 38'*’ 
parallel. 

Maneuver warfare proved relatively useless against the PLA’s tactics. Since the 
PLA forces could live off the land, air interdiction and attacks against the supply bases 
only served to slow the build up of PLA forces at the front instead of stopping them. This 
was further exacerbated by the PLA’s use of camouflage, dispersal, bad weather and 
night to minimize American attempts at using air interdiction against the supply lines, 
which met with limited success. Also, once PLA units became engaged with American 
units, they often became intermixed, which forced the U.S. commanders to choose 
between accepting friendly fire casualties or limiting the effectiveness of their air and 
artillery strikes. Artillery proved more useful against human wave attacks, because it 
could be fired continuously throughout the attack and could be adjusted in very close to 
friendly positions. The Battalion, 38'^ Infantry held a position mmed Bunker Hill by 
having the division artillery fire variable time (VT) artillery, a method of causing 
airbursts, onto its own positions. Since the Americans were in bunkers and the attacking 


47 t.R. Fehrenbach, This Kind Of War, 1-355 

27 



Chinese and North Koreans were exposed, the artillery annihilated the attackers while the 
defenders remained safe in their bunkers.48 

As the United States and UN forces continued to build up in Korea, the United 
States eventually reduced the threat of infiltration by tying the flanks of each unit 
together and stretching the line of control across the peninsula. Once the line extended 
across the length of the peninsula, combat settled into a static war of attrition, where each 
side tried to make the cost of continued fighting excessive. After it became apparent on 
30 June 1951 that a negotiated peace would end the war, rather than the defeat of the 
North Koreans, the United States began to use firepower as a substitute for sending 
soldiers into close combat to limit the war’s cost. The mission of the infantry was to find 
and fix enemy forces, so they could be destroyed by air and artillery strikes. The United 
States continued to use this tactic until the war ended. 

This evolution of substituting firepower for ground maneuver forces continued in 
Vietnam. The dense jungles of Vietnam restricted maneuver, limiting ground forces to 
the speed of their feet. To offset the inability to maneuver, the United States employed 
firepower to dominate parts of the battlefield they could not reach by maneuver. The 
United States also used helicopters to transport forces over the jungle, but while this 
increased the mobility of our forces, it did not increase their control of the battlefield. 
This reinforced the utility of firepower over maneuver. 

While commanding the T' Infantry Division in Vietnam, General William DePuy 
discovered that most U.S. casualties came from close combat and mines, while the 
majority of enemy casualties stemmed from artillery and air strikes. He believed the way 
to minimize friendly casualties and maximize enemy casualties was to send smaller 
infantry forces out to find and fix enemy forces, which could then be destroyed by 
massed air and artillery strikes. 49 This proved effective in destroying enemy forces, but 
did not facilitate seizure of terrain. The communists were eventually able to replace the 

48 T.R. Fehrenbach, This Kind Of War, 333 

49 Robert H. Scales Jr., “From Korea To Kosovo’’, Armed Forces Journal International (December 
1999), 37 


28 



men and material destroyed by the U.S. and its allies over time. The United States made 
the mistake of basing their strategy on attrition, but leaving the enemy with the initiative. 
The enemy could set the tempo of q}erations by increasing or decreasing the tempo to 
their advantage. 

Since much of the fighting took place in thick jungles, there was little danger of 
collateral damage. This enabled the United States military to be unconstrained when it 
employed massive air and artillery strikes. Rather than engage enemy units, the United 
States employed B-52s to drop massive quantities of bombs on suspected enemy 
positions. The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces that faced this unprecedented 
onslaught suffered grievous casualties. The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese learned to 
mitigate the effects of air and artillery strikes by becoming masters of camouflage and 
unseen movement. The enemy often used tunnel networks to move and organize forces, 
which were invulnerable t) American airpower.50 They dispersed as much as possible 
and only massed together to present a good target when in the vicinity of American and 
South Vietnamese units. This tactic forced the Americans to choose between risking 
friendly casualties from air strikes or foregoing the air strikes and facing the enemy on 
more equal terms. While massive firepower degraded the enemy’s forces in the field 
significantly, it failed to force the enemy to sue for peace. 

The United States learned from Vietnam that protracted wars can be very costly 
and it wrongly learned to use firepower instead of maneuver. By focusing on destroying 
enemy forces, the United States never questioned if an attrition based strategy was the 
optimal solution. Instead the United States concentrated on developing ways to deliver 
more firepower onto the enemy and to improve its accuracy. By improving the accuracy, 
the United States reduced the cost of fighting by employing less munitions and delivery 
systems. While having an advantage in firepower over the communist forces made the 
war more costly for the North Vietnamese, the North Vietnamese were more willing to 
pay the price. To avoid being caught in another endless quagmire, U.S. military learned 
that wars must be short and decisive to ensure public support. 

50 Tom Mangold and John Penycate, The Tunnels Of Cu Chi (New York, New York: Random House 
Inc., 1985) 


29 



The United States became involved in one final limited conflict in Southeast Asia 
in May 1975. On May 12, 1975, Cambodia seized the freighter Mayaguez. A rescue force 
composed of U.S. Marines covered by U.S. Air Force fighters attempted to rescue the 
crew, who the U.S. thought were being held on the island of Koh Tang. As the rescue 
mission began, an orbiting AC-130 gunship departed the area and the fighters tasked to 
cover the air assault refueled from their tanker, resulting in the air assault hitting a hot 
landing zone without any fire support. Coordination between the marines and the pilots 
continued to suffer until late in the rescue mission, when an airborne forward air 
controller in an OV-10 Bronco took control of the close air support. Prior to the arrival of 
the OV-10 Bronco, the pilots coordinating the air strikes continuously changed as the 
pilots ran low on fuel and had to depart the area to refuel from airborne tankers. At one 
point the air force dropped a BLU-82, the largest non-nuclear bomb the air force owned, 
which the forces on the ground thought were the supplies they had requested. The BLU- 
82 is dropped from a C-130 cargo aircraft using a parachute, which explains why it was 
mistaken for a requested resupply bundle. The gound commander had requested to be 
notified before any large bombs were dropped, but the first warning came when the bomb 
exploded 800 meters away from friendly troops. The inability to control the air strikes 
from the ground until a forward air controller arrived resulted in heavy casualties for the 
rescue force.51 

Throughout the Cold War and in the limited wars fought during the Cold War, the 
United States often faced an opponent with the availability of a larger pool of manpower. 
To counter these larger forces the United States had to either outmaneuver the enemy or 
employ more firepower to achieve victory. The restricted terrain in Korea and Vietnam 
supported firepower over maneuver. This preference for firepower was further supported 
by the American penchant for technical solutions. The United States made great advances 
in the application of firepower during the Cold War, but it failed to learn to integrate the 
firepower with maneuver in limited conflicts. 


51 Lucien S. Vandenbrucke, Perilous Options, Special Forces As An Instrument Of U. S. Foreign 
Policy (New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 94-113 

30 



D. THE POST-COLD WAR ERA 


Once the Cold War ended, the United States no longer had to contend with the 
USSR. This coincided with a technical revolution in computing. The end of the Cold War 
changed the strategic situation the United States faced. By the time that the Soviet Union 
collapsed, the United States had built up a huge air force to fight it. The U.S. Air Force 
had to find new rolls and missions because the old mission of deterring the Soviet Union 
no longer required such a massive air force. The Air Force became involved in power 
projection as a new mission. 52 While the end of the Cold War left the United States in a 
position of unrivaled power, similar to the United States’ position after World War II, the 
United States had to reduce its military expenditures. During the first half of the 1990s, 
the United States Army shrank from 18 combat divisions to 10 combat divisions. At the 
same time, the Army has deployed on many peacekeeping missions. 

After Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, President Bush built up a 
military coalition centered on the United States military to evict the Iraqis from Kuwait. 
Over five months, the United States assembled and prepared a combined arms force to 
defeat the Iraqis. The Iraqi army was subsequently shattered after a 40-day preliminary 
bombardment followed by an enveloping attack through southern Iraq. 

The air war over Iraq began on 17 January 1991 with a series of strikes designed 
to eliminate the Iraqi’s integrated air defense system. The coalition succeeded in gaining 
complete control of Iraqi airspace. This dominance of the Iraqi airspace enabled coalition 
forces to fly and bomb Iraqi forces with impunity and at the same time enabled coalition 
ground forces to operate without the threat of enemy air strikes. The coalition’s success at 
gaining air dominance proved easier than eliminating the Iraqi ground forces. 

Over six weeks of bombing, the republican guard forces had been degraded to 
between 50 and 75 percent strength, with the units on the border having suffered 


52 Trest, Warren A., Air Force Roles and Missions: A History (Washington, D.C.: Air Force History 
And Museums Programs, 1998), 227-266 


31 



somewhat heavier casualties, but they were still capable of fighting. 53 The coalition 
ground forces received limited air support, because of bad weather. 54 There were also 
arguments over the placement of coordination lines to separate operating areas. The air 
force felt that by placing the coordination lines so far in front of the forward line of 
troops that Iraqi forces were able to escape bombing attacks.55 The bad weather and 
coordination problems did not significantly impact ground combat operations because the 
coalition forces had brought a huge amount of artillery with them. The ground and air 
campaign swiftly expelled the Iraqis from Kuwait. 56 

The success of the mechanized forces in Iraq demonstrated the value of heavy 
artillery. As the coalition divisions advanced they often had an artillery brigade in support 
to destroy any resistance and to soften up targets before they were attacked. The United 
States Army’s artillery branch used the gulf war to argue for the Crusader Artillery 
System. The Crusader was a 155mm self-propelled artillery system designed to operate in 
a high threat mechanized battle with a range of 28.2 kilometers for conventional 
munitions and 40 kilometers for rocket assisted munitions. These ranges outperformed 
the Paladin howitzer, which could fire a conventional round 22.5 ki lometers and a rocket 
assisted round to 30 kilometers. The armor needed to protect the Crusader caused the gun 
and its ammo carrier to weigh 70 tons combined. The system proved difficult to deploy 
because of its weight. The Chief of the U.S. Field Artillery Branch, Major General 
Randall Rigby, extolled how the Crusader would enable the ground commander “to 
attack the enemy by indirect firepower throughout the operational depths of the 
battlefield.”57 The Sense and Destroy Armor smart submunition ga’ve the Crusader the 
capability to attack enemy vehicles precisely. The U.S. Air Force already had the 
technical capability to carryout precision attacks throughout the operational depth of the 


53 Robert H. Scales Jr., Certain Victory (Washington, D.C., Office of the Chief of Staff, United States 
Army: 1993), 208, 232-236 

54 Robert H. Scales Jr., 240 

55 Benjamin S. Lambeth, The Transformation Of American Air Power (Ithaca, New York: Cornell 
University Press, 2000), 135 

56 Robert H. Scales Jr., Certain Victory, 1-435 

57 mg Randall L. Rigby, “Registration Points’’, Field Artillery Journal 1 (July-August 1996), 1 

32 



battlefield. The Crusader failed to provide any capabilities that could not be done by 
aircraft or current artillery pieces, which is why the program was canceled in 2002. 

The United States’ victory stunned the world as well as the Iraqis. The only 
weakness seen in operation Desert Storm was the excessive amount of time it took for 
forces to deploy to Saudi Arabia. To prevent the United States from assembling sufficient 
combat power, a nation cannot allow the U.S. to build up its combat power over time. 
This belief supports air power advocates, because the air force his the capability to 
project power across long distances. 

Another lesson learned by other nations was not to fight the U. S. military in open 
terrain. By operating in confined terrain, an opponent can avoid the standoff attack 
capability of many U.S. weapon systems. Because operating in built up city environments 
negated many U.S. advantages, the U.S. Army’s doctrine for operating in cities consisted 
of avoiding cities. This doctrine proved untenable. The United States became involved in 
peacekeeping missions in Port Au Prince and Mogadishu. 

While the peacekeeping mission in Haiti remained peaceful, the U.S. Army 
became involved in the fighting to subdue one of the Somali warlords. On the of 
October 1993, 18 U.S. service men died in a firefight in the center of Mogadishu. 58 The 
soldiers became pinned down in the center of the city because they were not able to 
suppress the enemy forces. Air strikes using conventional bombs could not be employed, 
because the enemy forces were too close and intermingled with U.S. forces and the cost 
in collateral damage would have been excessive. AC-130 gunships could have been 
useful, but the U.S. Air Force refused to employ them in daylight after one had been shot 
down in the gulf war. Artillery would have been useless h augmenting the Rangers’ 
firepower, but may have been useful in obscuring some parts of the battlefield using 
smoke. Also, since most rangers had not brought their night vision devices, artillery or 
mortar illumination may have been helpful. In the Somali firefight, the Rangers had 

58 Though the raid was a tactical success, the perception of heavy casualties led to the withdrawal of 
U.S. forces from Somalia. Had U.S. forces suffered less casualties during the raid, the political costs would 
have been lower. The U.S. public did not feel the costs of nation building in Somalia were justified. 


33 



relied on one source of fire support, the orbiting helicopters, which proved vulnerable to 
ground fire. By violating the Weinberger Doctrine and not committing sufficient force to 
accomplish the mission in Somalia, U.S. forces did not have the flexibility to accomplish 
the mission with minimal casualties. 

The firefight in Mogadishu had a lasting effect on deployments to limited 
conflicts for the rest of the Clinton Presidency. Before deploying ground forces to Bosnia 
and Kosovo, the United States used its air power to force the various warring factions to 
agree to implement a peace agreement. In the Kosovo Campaign, President Clinton stated 
that there would not be a ground attack in concert with the air campaign. 59 The air 
campaign to force the Serbs to cease committing human rights abuses in Kosovo 
demonstrated some of the weaknesses as well as the successes of air power. 

On the night of 24 March 1999, the United States began Operation Allied Force, 
an air campaign, to force the Serbs in Kosovo to cease committing human rights 
violations. The initial strikes were intended as a show of force to compel the Serbs to 
agree to NATO’s demands. Like the North Koreans less than 50 years earlier, the initial 
air strikes failed to coerce the Serbs into compliance. The air campaign lasted for a total 
of 78 days. Once NATO had suppressed the Serb’s air defenses sufficiently, NATO 
began to engage the fielded Serb forces in an attempt to halt the on going atrocities. Since 
the Serb leadership did not have to mass its forces to repel a ground threat, the Serb 
forces remained dispersed to minimize the effects of the bombing campaign. The 
dispersion of Serb forces did provide the KLA with some relief, enabling the KLA to 
carry out limited attacks. The weather and mountainous terrain in Kosovo further 
compounded the problem of defeating the Serb forces in the field. The amount of heavy 
equipment destroyed in Kosovo cannot be completely identified, but the annual data 
exchanges of equipment reported by Yugoslavia for its arms control agreements indicate 
that from January 1999 to January 2000 Yugoslavia had nine less tanks, eleven less 
APCs, thirty-six less artillery pieces and had gained twenty-one mortar systems. 60 The air 

59 Benjamin S. Lambeth, NATO’s Airwar For Kosovo (Santa Monica, California: RAND, 2001), 19 

60 Bruce R. Nardulli et al.. Disjointed War, Military Operations In Kosovo, 1999 (Santa Monica, 
California: RAND, 2002), 55 


34 



campaign had barely outstripped Yugoslavia’s military production capability for 1999. 
However, the strategic bombing campaign designed to make life more difficult for the 
Serbs in Yugoslavia proved very successful. 

By bombing infrastructure and leadership targets with precision-guided munitions 
in Yugoslavia itself, the air campaign decreased the Serbian public’s support for the war. 
When combined with the loss of Russian support and the threat of an eventual ground 
campaign, Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav President, accepted NATO’s demands. 
Air power advocates hailed the strategic bombing campaign as a great success. The use 
of precision guided munitions limited collateral damage, which reduced the backlash felt 
by the Serb public against NATO. At the same time, the destruction of infrastructure in 
Yugoslavia and its capital Belgrade lowered the morale of the Serb public and eroded 
support for the war. The loss of support, both domestic and foreign, combined with the 
persistence of NATO and the KLA forced the Serb leadership to accept an international 
peacekeeping force in Kosovo. 

The peacekeeping mission that deployed to Kosovo after the bombing campaign 
brought its organic artillery, just as the Armored Division had brought its organic 
artillery to Bosnia. The artillery operated from numerous base camps in the U.S. zone. 
Not only did the artillery and mortars provide base camp protection, but the platoons 
often supported patrols and inspection teams. In Bosnia, the artillery battalion dispersed 
into its six platoons, which operated in split pairs, where two guns would deploy on a 
“Raid” to cover a specific weapon storage site inspection or on a “Presence Mission” as a 
show of force. Since the Nordic contingent in the U.S. sector did not have encrypted 
communications initially. The various factions became intimidated and felt that the 
NATO peacekeepers were preparing to fight them. The artillery deployed with the U.S. 
peacekeeping forces provided a 24-hour a day, all weather capability that was very 


61 Benjamin S. Lambeth, NATO’s Ainvar For Kosovo, 67-86 


35 



visible to the various factions, which served to deter the factions from resuming the 

fight. 62 


Operation Allied Force demonstrated that strategic bombing could succeed 
without the need for a ground campaign, apparently vindicating air power theorists like 
Douhet and Mitchell eighty years after they had developed their theories. The KLA’s 
fight for survival does not qualify as a ground campaign and NATO did not have the 
forces in place to launch an immediate ground campaign. While bombing served as an 
effective means of coercing the factions to be peaceful, ground forces had to be deployed 
to the area to maintain the peace. While the deployments could be scaled back after peace 
had been established and the dominance of the peacekeeping force was demonstrated to 
the factions, the peacekeeping missions have been long deployments. The forces in 
Bosnia have been deployed for over seven years and will not be withdrawn in the near 
future. 

E. SUMMARY 

The last hundred years have led to great advances in how the United States wages 
war. These advances have built up certain trends in how the United States thinks about 
war. The rise of fire support from being a direct fire asset to an indirect fire asset enabled 
larger amounts of firepower to be applied to the decisive point in a battle because the 
units involved were not directly engaged in the fighting. This rise led the U.S. Army’s 
Field Artillery branch to focus on acquiring heavier systems. At the same time, the advent 
of aircraft led to the development of a system that could also deliver massive amounts of 
firepower. In order to achieve independence from the U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force 
focused on dominating the air rather than providing close air support. Close air support 
placed aircraft in a roll where they supported the ground commander, which was counter 
to achieving independence form the ground forces. The United States’ history in limited 
wars indicates that winning quickly is key, while prolonged combat eventually leads to 

62 Timothy Prater, Interview by author, Interviews conducted by email and phone in 31 May 2003. 
MAI Timothy Prater served as the Division Assistant Fire Support Coordinator to Multi-National Division 
(North) in Bosnia from March to September in 1997. 


36 



defeat or stalemate. This has led to the Weinberger doctrine of using overwhelming force 
against the enemy. Since the end of the Cold War, advances in technology enabled the 
U.S. Air Force to project massive power globally and very precisely. Simultaneously, the 
U.S. Army Artillery has stagnated, by attempting to compete with the U.S. Air Force by 
building the Crusader. The United States military began to follow a trend of using air 
power to win wars and then employing ground forces afterwards to keep the peace. In the 
next chapter, the campaign in Afghanistan demonstrates that this trend has continued. 


37 



THIS PAGE INTENTIONALLY LEET BLANK 


38 



m. AIR OPERATIONS IN AFGHANISTAN 


After the terrorist attacks on September 11'*’, the United States began to hunt for 
A1 Qaeda and demanded that the Taliban in Afghanistan turn over A1 Qaeda’s leadership 
or suffer the consequences. When the Taliban refused to turn over A1 Qaeda’s leadership, 
the United States executed a military campaign to remove the Taliban from power and to 
eliminate A1 Qaeda’s influence in Afghanistan. The military campaign combined the use 
of special operations forces, light infantry forces at the end of the campaign and air power 
as the sole method of fire support. The success of the campaign led many to hail this as a 
new model of warfare, where a small U.S. ground force supporting an indigenous force 
could defeat a much stronger opponent by using copious amounts of air support. This 
chapter examines what happened during Operation Enduring Freedom and how air power 
proved effective and ineffective during the operation. 


A. OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM 

Operation Enduring Freedom began on 7 October 2001 with air strikes targeting 
Taliban air defenses and terrorist infrastructure targets. The strikes had been delayed 
while the U.S. Air Force waited for permission to deploy combat search and rescue 
(CSAR) assets into Uzbekistan. To avoid political embarrassment and the appearance of 
impotence, the United States choose to delay air strikes until it had the capability to 
extract downed air crews, because the targets were considered to be of low value, while 
captured pilots would be very costly politically. 63 The tactical aircraft staged off of 
aircraft carriers in the Indian Ocean and from bases in Persian Gulf, while bombers flew 
from as far as the continental United States. By the of October, the United States 
began to run out of quality targets. The U.S. leadership had already known that 
Afghanistan did not have many infrastructure targets. According to Bob Woodward, the 
president explained that the objective was “to get the bad guys moving. We get’em 


63 Bob Woodward, Bush At War (New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002), 177-178 

39 



moving, we can see them, we can hit them.”64 The United States succeeded, causing the 
terrorists to scatter and go to ground. 

On 19 October 2001, a special operations force (SOF) attacked an airfield near 
Kandahar, called Operation Rhino, as a demonstration of U.S. capabilities and to gather 
intelligence. Like the Doolittle Raid in World War II, Operation Rhino served to rally 
American morale at home by demonstrating that the U.S. military could do more than 
launch cruise missiles and air strikes. At the same time Operation Rhino took place, an 
army Special Forces team. Team 555, deployed into northern Afghanistan to link up with 
a CIA team, which had flown into Afghanistan on 26 September 2001.65 

To get to the terrorists, the United States had to remove the Taliban from power. 
Team 555 and other teams that deployed into northern Afghanistan assisted anti-Taliban 
forces in overthrowing the Taliban. These Special Forces teams deployed with only their 
personal weapons, because they did not have the carrying capacity to haul any heavier 
weapons. The intelligence generated from the Northern Alliance enabled the Special 
Forces to target Taliban forces accurately, which enabled the Northern Alliance to 
overrun the Taliban in the North and capture the critical city Mazar-e-Sharif. This led to 
the fall of Kabul on 13 November 2001. Special Forces teams operating in southern 
Afghanistan with Hamid Karzai’s forces captured the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar on 
6 December 2001.66 The complete collapse of the Taliban caught the United States by 
surprise. The United States had set a limited objective of taking Mazar-e-Sharif before 
winter set in and ended campaigning for the year. At a press conference. Secretary of 
Defense Rumsfeld stated that he did not expect a quick victory. 67 The unexpected 
collapse of the Taliban enabled the United States to resume pursuing A1 Qaeda forces. 


64 Bob Woodward, Bush At War, 153 

65 Bob Woodward, Bush At War, 250-251 

66 Stephen Biddle, Afghanistan And The Future Of Warfare: Implications For Army And Defense 
Policy (Carlise, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2002), 8-12 

67 Bob Woodward, Bush At War, 275-276 


40 



U.S. intelligence tracked a large force of A1 Qaeda survivors to the vicinity of 
Tora Bora in early December. U.S. bombers carried out numerous air strikes in an 
attempt to destroy the survivors, but the Afghan surrogates failed to block the escape 
routes. This enabled many A1 Qaeda to escape over the border into Pakistan. 

In early March 2002, another force of A1 Qaeda survivors were spotted 
reconstituting and reorganizing in the Shah-i-kot Valley. U.S. forces planned Operation 
Anaconda to trap and destroy the A1 Qaeda forces. A1 Qaeda forces ambushed local 
forces working with Special Forces, which forced the United States to commit two 
battalions of light infantry from the 10'^ Mountain Division and 10 U' Air Assault 
Division. Operation Anaconda proved to be some of the hardest fighting for American 
forces during the war in Afghanistan. Since Operation Anaconda, the United States has 
not met any organized resistance in Afghanistan. 

The United States had gone from a peacetime footing to occupying Afghanistan in 
less than six months. Many hailed the synergy achieved between Special Forces led 
surrogates and precision air power as the new model of warfare for limited wars. This 
synergy appeared to support Robert Scales’ argument that America can achieve its best 
success by using a small force to find and fix the enemy, then call in massive air and 
artillery strikes to eliminate the threat. 68 Dr. Stephen Biddle argues against this new 
model, claiming that the success in Afghanistan should be viewed “neither as a fluke nor 
as a military revolution, but rather as a surprisingly orthodox example of modern joint 
theater warfare.”69 For Biddle, fire and maneuver continue to play important parts in 
waging warfare. This contrasts with the view that small forces using precision-guided 
munitions can overwhelm larger, less well-trained forces. Air power had both strengths 
and weaknesses in the Afghanistan campaign. 


68 Robert H. Scales Jr., “From Korea To Kosovo”, Armed Forces Journal International (December 
1999), 37 

69 Stephen Biddle, Afghanistan And The Future Of Warfare, 43 


41 



B. 


THE EFFECTIVENESS OF AIR POWER 


In Afghanistan the main strengths of air power were its effectiveness and 
availability. As in Kosovo, when enemy forces were massed, the Taliban and A1 Qaeda 
could be relatively easily destroyed, just like Serb forces, by massed firepower from the 
air. One of the most useful abilities of aircraft is to operate from distant bases outside of 
the country in conflict. The reliance on precision guided munitions led to bw collateral 
damage and great accuracy. The ability to retask aircraft in flight greatly increased the 
availability of close air support. Combined with the availability of close air support, the 
accuracy of the bombing offensive disrupted the ability of Taliban and A1 Qaeda forces to 
resist the U.S. and allied forces. As a result, air power served as a critical force multiplier. 

The use of massive airpower enabled the Northern Alliance to overwhelm the 
Taliban, a force that had previously driven the Northern Alliance into the northeast comer 
of Afghanistan. Until American Special Forces arrived to coordinate air strikes, the 
Northern Alliance had been on the defensive. With the augmented firepower, the 
Northern Alliance could go on the offensive. Early in the campaign, the Taliban forces 
would withdraw after being bombed, but later in the campaign it would require 
determined attacks to drive the Taliban and A1 Qaeda forces from the field. At Bai Beche, 
the Taliban had driven back a Northern Alliance cavalry attack. A second cavalry attack 
was launched and struck the well-prepared positions just after an air strike. The cavalry 
was able to get behind the defenders, forcing them to retreat, Without the massive 
firepower support, the Northern Alliance would probably not have been able to break 
through Taliban lines and defeat the Taliban and A1 Qaeda. The Taliban had few supply 
routes it could use to move around. Once the Northern Alliance placed pressure on the 
Taliban forces, the Taliban forces were forced to mass to defend themselves and were 
easier to spot and target with air strikes. “Taliban supply lines and communications had 
been severed in the carpet bombing.”7i By paralyzing the Taliban forces with 


^0 Stephen Biddle, Afghanistan And The Future Of Warfare, 38-39 
Bob Woodward, Bush At War, 301 


42 


devastatingly accurate air strikes, the Northern Alliance had the freedom to maneuver and 
capture the critical terrain and cities. 

To achieve an unprecedented level of accuracy, the United States has increased 
the percentages of precision-guided munitions it uses. In the Gulf War in 1991, the 
United States used only 7-8 percent precision munitions to attack Iraqi forces. This 
percentage rose to 35 percent in the Kosovo air campaign and increased to 56 percent in 
the Afghanistan campaign. The United States achieved this level of usage because of the 
low cost of the JDAM, Joint Direct Attack Munition. JDAM kits cost roughly $14,000 
and convert an old unguided 1,000-pound or 2,000-pound bomb into a GPS, Global 
Position System, guided weapon that can be accurate to less than ten meters.”72 xhe use of 
so many precisbn munitions by the United States intimidated the Taliban and A1 Qaeda 
forces and increased the morale of the Afghan allies. It enabled the United States to 
engage and destroy numerous point targets that had required a direct hit to be destroyed. 
This allowed the United States to target buildings in cities and still minimize collateral 
damage and to reduce the number missions required to re-strike targets. 

The precision of U.S. air strikes shortened the war by conveying a level of 
capability the Afghans had not expected from the Americans: 

There was a television antenna on top of a small hill in Kabul that had 
been a favorite target of the Soviets though they had never succeeded in 
hitting it. The Northern Alliance had also tried and failed. An American jet 
streaked in and, with one bomb, the antenna was gone. Word spread 
through the capital: The Americans are going to win, this is over. 73 

The destruction of the antenna by one bomb sent a message to both the Taliban forces 
and civilians in Kabul that resistance was futile. The U.S. had the capability to crush any 
opposition and destroy any target. When combined with the message of resolve sent by 
committing ground forces, the Taliban realized the U.S. had both the will and ability to 


72 Anthony H. Cordesman, The Lessons Of Afghanistan (Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and 
International Studies, 2002), 12 

73 Bob Woodward, Bush At War, 312 


43 



defeat them. The Taliban abandon Kabul and the Afghan civilians in Kabul celebrated 
their liberation. 

The use of precision-guided munitions enabled the use of less aircraft to 
accomplish a mission and allowed the aircraft to operate from a much higher altitude. 
The U.S. and its allies flew up to 200 sorties per day. In comparison, the U.S. and its 
allies flew up to 2,000 sorties per day in Kosovo and 2,800 sorties per day during the 
Gulf War in 1991.74 This enabled the U.S. to commit fewer airframes to attacking 
Afghanistan, which left forces available for other operations and reduced the probability 
that an aircraft would go down in Afghanistan. The use of precision-guided munitions 
rendered U.S. aircraft invulnerable to ground fire, because they could fly safely above it. 
Normally, operating from high altitudes significantly reduces the accuracy of bombs, but 
the GPS guided JDAMs eliminated this problem. By reducing the risk to U.S. aircraft, the 
administration reduced the chances of A1 Qaeda capturing a U.S. serviceman or woman, 
which the administration believed would have been a public relations nightmare and 
increased the leverage A1 Qaeda would have. 75 The use of precision-guided munitions 
lowered the perceived political costs of operating in Afghanistan. 

The ability to retask aircraft enabled the U.S. to use fewer aircraft as well. If an 
aircraft’s target could not be attacked because of weather or another reason, the aircraft 
could be retasked to engage or support a different mission. This increased the amount of 
air support provided to the Special Forces teams, though they were not the priority at the 
time.76 Many of the U.S. Navy aircraft arrived over Afghanistan without a specific target 
or had the target changed in flight.77 The lack of an air defense threat combined with the 
ability to retask and program each ID AM enabled heavy bombers. Bis and B-52s, to 
loiter over the battlefield waiting for targets of opportunity. This increased the 
responsiveness of close air support significantly. 

74 Anthony H. Cordesman, The Lessons Of Afghanistan ,11. Part of the low sortie rate for Afghanistan, 
in comparison with Kosovo and the Gulf War, stemmed from lack of worthwhile targets in Afghanistan 

75 Bob Woodward, Bush At War, 177-179 

76 Bob Woodward, Bush At War, 264 

77 Anthony H. Cordesman, The Lessons Of Afghanistan, 111 


44 



Operating aircraft from bases in other countries or from aircraft carriers also 
lowers the political risks during a conflict. The aircraft and aircrew are all that is risked 
over the enemy country. The ground crew and support facilities can remain in a friendly 
country. This reduces the logistical footprint in combat areas, reducing the vulnerability 
of the support systems. Also, by operating from permanent bases, the facilities can be 
improved over time and are usually better than temporary bases hastily established in the 
combat zone. The support facilities at our airbases in Qatar are far better than the 
facilities are at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan. Some of the drawbacks to operating 
aircraft from other countries will be addressed in the next section. 

C. HOW AIR POWER PROVED INEFFECTIVE 

While the Afghan campaign demonstrated some of the great strengths of air 
power, the campaign also demonstrated some of the weaknesses of air power. Under 
certain circumstances, some strengths turned out to be weaknesses. The use of large 
bombs increased the risks of fratricide and of collateral damage. To stay out of a danger 
area, air strikes had to be kept at a distance from friendly positions. The U.S. experienced 
difficulties in targeting. For ground forces, there is a requirement for a ground forward 
air controller (GFAC) or enlisted terminal air controller (ETAC) to call in JDAMs. While 
response times have improved, it still takes too long for an air strike to hit after it has 
been requested. Part of the slow response time is caused by the low priority assigned to 
close air support missions. Weather still impacts the effectiveness of air support, often 
limiting the coverage ground units receive. All of these weaknesses became apparent 
during Operation Enduring Ereedom. While some can be fixed by fechnical solutions, 
others require a shift in the willingness of commanders to take risk. 

At most times using a bigger bomb is an advantage. But there are occasions when 
a smaller burst is preferable. Currently, JDAMs can only be used with 1,000-pound and 
2,000-pound bombs. While the minimum safe distances for JDAMs is currently 
unavailable, the minimum safe distances for soldiers assaulting an enemy position being 


45 



struck by a 1,000-pound laser guided MK 83 bomb are 275 meters for a probability of 
incapacitation, PI, of 10 percent and 500 meters for a PI of 0.1 percent. The term 
probability of incapacitation is based on the probability that a soldier will receive an 
injury requiring medical evacuation. The probabilities are based on a soldier standing, 
which is the best simulation for assaulting infantry. Bomb fragments can be thrown 
significantly beyond these distances. ^8 When prone or under cover, bombs can be 
dropped much closer with a lower degree of risk. Depending on how much risk a 
commander is willing to accept, air strikes suppressing an objective the infantry is 
assaulting have to be stopped while the infantry is still a considerable distance from the 
objective. 

Often, infantry forces engage enemy forces at distances considerably closer than 
275 meters. During Operation Anaconda, a forward air controller was calling in air 
strikes extremely close to friendly defensive positions. A bunker just up the hill, 50-75 
meters from friendly forces, pinned down U.S. soldiers with machine gun fire. The pilot 
became nervous about how close the air strikes with 500-pound bombs were to friendly 
positions when the controller said, “Whoa, you almost got us with that one.” The 
controller then asked the pilot to try to drop the next bomb closer to their position. The 
pilot worried that if he dropped the bomb any closer, the rangers and the controller would 
be caught in the fragmentation pattern. ^9 

During the campaign in Afghanistan, the tactical situation often forced 
commanders of assaulting forces to choose between taking friendly-fire casualties and 
having the effects of an air strike wear off, which would lead to casualties from enemy 
fire. Despite two days of air strikes near Bai Beche, the Taliban defenders repulsed a 
cavalry charge by Northern Alliance soldiers conducted after the air strikes had ended. 
Due to a miscommunication, a second cavalry charge was launched just as some laser- 
guided bombs were dropped on the enemy positions. The U.S. Special Forces 

MAJ Gerard Pokorski and Lonnie R. Minton, “Risk Estimate Distances For Indirect Fires In 
Combat,” FA Journal 2 (March-April 1997), 9 

29 Bradley Graham, “Bravery And Breakdowns In A Ridgetop Battle,” Washington Post, 24 May 
2002, sec A, p. AOl, Downloaded from the Lexis-Nexis database at www.nexis.com on 3 June 2003 


46 



commander believed that the cavalry charge would be caught in the fragment pattern of 
the air strike because they were inside the minimum safe distance from the target. 
Luckily, the cavalry was just outside of the effects when the air strike hit enabling them 
to overrun the stunned defenders. The attack succeeded because a miscommunication 
integrated maneuver with its fire support “far tighter,..., than either Dostum’s troops or 
their supporting SOF would ever have dared arrange deliberately.”80 Like in Kosovo, the 
Taliban and A1 Qaeda forces learned to camouflage and dig in to protect themselves. As a 
result, enemy and friendly forces were often very close together during many 
engagements. Weapon systems using a smaller burst radius would have been safer to 
support the cavalry charge at Bai Beche and the soldiers pinned down during Operation 
Anaconda. 

Unless the bomb destroys the enemy position, which does not happen very often, 
unless using precision-guided munitions combined with accurate target intelligence, the 
enemy forces will only be suppressed for as long as the air attack is taking place. At Bai 
Beche, two days of air strikes had not neutralized the defenders. The cavalry had to force 
them to withdrawal. During Operation Anaconda, A1 Qaeda forces would duck into caves 
when they heard fixed-wing aircraft approaching. Unless using a precision-guided 
munition, the caves generally survived the air strike. When the air strike ended, the A1 
Qaeda fighters would emerge from the cave and resume fighting. To stop this, the 
Americans would either use mortars and machine guns to kill the A1 Qaeda fighters. 
When unable to kill the A1 Qaeda fighters, the Americans would suppress them with 
machine guns and mortars, blocking the A1 Qaeda fighters from escaping into a cave, so 
an air strike could kill them. 8i The U.S. ground forces had difficulties getting the Taliban 
and A1 Qaeda forces to hold still long enough for an air strike to hit them. 

Air power in Afghanistan achieved amazing results against static well-defined 
targets, but getting the Taliban and A1 Qaeda forces to hold still long enough for an air 
strike was difficult. Often the enemy forces would have moved before an aircraft could 

80 Stephen Biddle, Afghanistan And The Future Of Warfare, 38-39 

81 MG Franklin L. Hagenbeck, “Afghanistan: Fire Support For Operation Anaconda,” interview by 
Robert H. McElroy, FA Journal, ed. Patrecia Slayden Hollis, (September-October 2002), 7 

47 



be summoned to strike them. The response times of aircraft were too long, “in many 
cases, mission briefings occurred up to nine hours before aircraft actually arrived on 
scene.”82 MG Hagenbeck explains that during the opening of Operation Anaconda: 


But for the first three or four days, we faced “fleeting” targets. By the time 
the AW ACS [airborne warning and control system aircraft] handed a 
target off, the Air Force said it took 26 minutes to calculate the DMFI 
[desired mean point of impact], which is required to ensure the precision 
munition hits the target. Then the aircraft had to get into the airspace 
management “cue.” It took anywhere from 26 minutes to hours (on 
occasion) for the precision munition to hit the targets. 83 


The Special Forces teams operating in October and November also had to contend 
with the problem that the Air Force considered striking fixed targets the priority. 
According to Bob Woodward, a CIA agent “had witnessed too many occasions when the 
A-team would spot a convoy ... and call and call to get a bomber and couldn’t get one.”84 
The U.S. Air Force maintained that fixed targets were still the priority. When the 
Taliban’s and A1 Qaeda’s convoys and logistical structure became a higher priority, their 
forces began to collapse. 


The weather affected availability of aircraft as well. When the ceiling would drop 
due to heavy cloud cover, air coverage would become limited. Luckily, the weather 
started out good for Operation Anaconda and did not deteriorate until several days into 
the operation, when the U.S. ground forces were not as dependent on air support. 85 Even 
though the ID AM can be dropped through cloud cover and will home into its target, the 
Air Force preferred to be able to get a visual sight on the target. 

Daylight could also be a problem. Since an AC-130 was shot down in Iraq during 
Gulf War in 1991, the U.S. Air Force has only operated the aircraft at night. This became 
a problem during Operation Anaconda when the opening air assaults landed. The air 

82 Anthony H. Cordesman, The Lessons Of Afghanistan, 111 

83 mg Franklin L. Hagenbeck, “Afghanistan: Fire Support For Operation Anaconda,” 8 

84 Bob Woodward, Bush At War, 264 

85 mg Franklin L. Hagenbeck, “Afghanistan: Fire Support For Operation Anaconda,” 9 

48 



assaults arrived just as dawn began and became involved in a major firefight. Since it was 
dawn, the AC-130 that had been on station left to return to its base, leaving the Special 
Forces engaged on the ground without air support initially. 86 Like the marines in the 
Mayaguez incident, the Special Forces soldiers had to fend for themselves as they 
struggled to survive on a hot landing zone. 

One of the largest problems encountered was the requirement that only Air Force 
certified personnel could call in precision-guided air strikes using JDAMs. The Air Force 
believes that the complexity of precision munitions requires that the person controlling a 
JDAMs strike either be a certified ground forward air controller (GFAC) or an enlisted 
terminal attack controller (ETAC). As MG Hagenbeck recounts: 

That platoon happened to have the battalion commander and an ETAC in 
it. That night, the ETAC was extracted. Eor the next 24 hours until we 
could get the ETAC reinserted, not even the battalion commander could 
call in precision-guided munitions. 87 

Major General Eranklin Hagenbeck then raises the question of what happens to a ground 
unit’s air support if the ETAC or GEAC is incapacitated. The problem is there are not 
enough GEACs and ETACs to support the dispersed ground maneuver forces operating in 
a limited conflict. 


The campaign in Afghanistan highlighted some of the failures of relying 
exclusively on air power for fire support. The successful integration of air power with the 
Special Eorces teams that supported the anti-Taliban forces achieved impressive results in 
Afghanistan, but would be difficult to duplicate in another country. The war in 
Afghanistan was fought to a standoff by two equal sides until the U.S. intervened by 
integrating air power with the anti-Taliban factions. The U.S. intervention tipped the 
balance enabling the anti-Taliban forces to defeat the Taliban and disperse A1 Qaeda. The 

86 Bradley Graham, “Bravery And Breakdowns In A Ridgetop Battle,’’ sec A, p. AOl 


87 mg Franklin L. Hagenbeck, “Afghanistan: Fire Support For Operation Anaconda,’’ 9 

49 



lack of competing missions combined with the permissive environment enabled the air 
force to retask aircraft to support ground forces. At times, gaps in air coverage appeared 
and placed ground forces in dangerous situations. At a Senate Armed Services 
Committee hearing, the Army Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki, testified that the 
reliance on air power alone for fire support led to increased casualties and that if artillery 
had been present at Operation Anaconda it could have reduced friendly casualties. ^8 in 
the next chapter, the utility of artillery in Afghanistan will be examined and whether 
artillery can provide better fire support to ground forces than air power in a limited 
conflict as Gen Shinseki maintains. 


88 Anthony H. Cordesman, The Lessons Of Afghanistan, 68 


50 



IV. ARTILLERY IN LIMITED CONELICTS 


General Shinseki, Army Chief of Staff, maintained that artillery could have 
provided better support to the ground maneuver forces than the air power that was used. 
This chapter examines the validity of that statement and then examines how artillery can 
be used in a limited conflict. The ground operations in Afghanistan fit into three 
categories; first, special operations forces conducting direct actions. Operation Rhino is 
an excellent example; second, special operations forces assisting surrogate forces to fight 
the Taliban and A1 Qaeda; finally, regular light infantry formations operating in 
Afghanistan after the Taliban fell from power. After examining the operating methods of 
ground forces in Afghanistan, we can easily examine how artillery and mortars can be 
employed in limited conflicts demonstrating the continuing relevance of indirect fire 
systems. Finally, the question of whether artillery could have been more useful than air 
power, as General Shinseki maintains, needs to be examined. 

To understand what kind of support a military unit needs, it is important to 
understand how the military unit operates. During Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S. 
ground forces and its allies operated in different ways during the campaign based on the 
situation and resources available. At the beginning of the campaign, resources limited the 
amount of ground forces available to be employed in Afghanistan. Since the U.S. did not 
have strong ties and basing agreements with Afghanistan’s neighbors prior to the 
September 11'*’ terror attacks, the U. S. had to establish ties and usage agreements before 
the U.S. could deploy significant amounts of troops and material to Afghanistan. The 
bombing campaign had been delayed by the delays in positioning a combat search and 
rescue capability. Similarly, the first ground operations in Afghanistan used small forces, 
because the U.S. had not yet built up its forces and support structures. 

Without large forces in the region, the first units to be able to operate in 
Afghanistan were special operations forces that have the capability of deploying rapidly. 
These units were capable of linking up and working with anti-Taliban forces and of 
coordinating raids against A1 Qaeda and Taliban bases. The raids against A1 Qaeda and 


51 



Taliban bases would be short duration attacks designed to destroy any forces and 
facilities and not to seize territory. Operation Rhino employed a company of rangers 
operating with special operations forces in an airborne raid on one of Mullah Omar’s 
compounds, the spiritual leader of the Taliban. The raid demonstrated the U.S. could do 
more than just bomb Afghanistan. American troops gathered intelligence and eliminated 
an enemy facility. While the U.S. has the capability to air drop or airlift artillery into 
combat, this is normally done when the plan is to seize the terrain. On a short duration 
raid, like Operation Rhino, the objective is to complete the mission and withdraw very 
quickly. In the 10-15 minutes it would take to get the artillery or mortars prepared for 
combat, the raid would hopefully be almost complete. Also, the limited lift capability of 
the CH-47s used to transport our forces would require a choice between carrying more 
infantry or lifting artillery pieces for the raid. Rather than deploy artillery or mortars, AC- 
130 gunship support would be able to cover the raid from the first troop hitting the 
ground until the last helicopter lifted off to exfiltrate our forces. The only time artillery 
support would be useful in a short duration raid would be when the raid took place in a 
location already underneath existing artillery coverage. 

The other operations taking place at the being of the Afghanistan campaign 
consisted of special operations forces coordinating air support for the anti-Taliban forces. 
These teams consisted of twelve men or less and each deployed with up to 300 pounds of 
equipment and supplies needed for coordinating air strikes and designating targets. 89 The 
teams deployed with just their personal weapons for self-defense and did not have the 
ability to carry mortars. The teams would have loved to carry heavier weaponry, but 
could not even bring Barretts, a .50 caliber sniper rifle that is good for long range sniping 
and destroying light vehicles. 90 The teams deployed to coordinate air support and did not 
have the carrying capacity to bring heavier weaponry and the Afghans did not have the 
capability to carry the equipment either. 


89 Bob Woodward, Bush At War (New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002), 249 

90 cpx D, Interview by author on 5 June 2003, Interviews conducted at Naval Post Graduate School. 
CPT D is a member of the Special Forces who deployed to Afghanistan during Operation Enduring 
Freedom. 


52 



The anti-Taliban forces did not have heavy weapons when the Special Forces 
teams arrived, and the teams did not have time to supply or train the Afghans to use 
artillery or mortars. As the offensive progressed the U.S. forces and allies captured 
Taliban and A1 Qaeda artillery, mortars and ammunition. 9i The pace of operations went 
to fast to stop and train enough anti-Taliban forces on how to use the numerous types of 
weapons. CPT D vehemently explained, when interviewed, that so few Afghans had such 
little understanding of how to operate the captured heavy weaponry, that sudden 
integration of indirect fire assets with the Afghans would present a danger to the Afghans 
and the special forces teams if allowed to use artillery and mortars in combat without 
training. 92 An indirect fire capability would have been useful during the times that air 
support was unavailable. At Tora Bora and other battles, Taliban and A1 (^eda forces 
could be seen escaping while waiting for an air strike, but the forces deployed to 
Afghanistan had to deploy light and could not take everything and most of the supported 
forces did not have the technical ability to make use of captured equipment. The Special 
Forces did not have an opportunity to train the Afghans to integrate artillery into their 
operations, because the ground war was progressing too rapidly to halt and conduct 
training. 

Once the Taliban had been driven from power, the campaign in Afghanistan 
changed and the U.S. had the time to establish a logistics base at Bagram Airbase near 
Kabul. This enabled the U.S. to deploy regular light infantry forces, from the lO'*’ 
Mountain Division and lOU' Air Assault Division, into the country. As the build up took 
place, commanders still had to choose what they needed immediately and what could be 
brought in with follow on forces. Artillery, its logistic support and the transport to haul 
ammunition can absorb a lot of airlift capacity. In Desert Storm, according to Major 
General Robert Scales, an armored division’s artillery and its support weighed roughly 
62,000 tons, which is a lot to deploy to a theater.93 mG Hagenbeck, the commander of 

91 Stephen Biddle, Afghanistan And The Future Of Warfare: Implications For Army And Defense 
Policy (Carlise, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2002), 23 

92 CPT D, Interview by author 

93 mg Robert H. Scales, “Transforming The Force—From Korea To Today,” interview by Patrecia 
Slayden Hollis, FA Journal, ed. Patrecia Slayden Hollis (July-August 2001), 8-9 


53 



coalition forces in Afghanistan, felt that the artillery was not needed, because “it was 
clear we could capitalize on our mortars as well as on the Army, Air Force, Marine and 
Navy aviation assets.”94 The general believed that artillery would be redundant and was 
not worth the resources necessary to bring the systems to Afghanistan. Additionally, 
limited helicopter lift and unusable roads constrained the amount of force that could be 
tactically employed during an operation. 

When asked if he would have used artillery in Operation Anaconda to support the 
assault into the Shah-I-Kot Valley, if it had been available, MG Hagenbeck replied that “I 
always [MG Hagenbeck’s emphasis] want organic fire support systems- always” but 
“because of the terrain and the lack of road systems, I would not have brought them in on 
the first day.” The general contradicts himself later by stating that ground based indirect 
fire support is “indispensable.”95 Since the commanders did not know what kind of anti¬ 
aircraft capability A1 Qaeda had as they planned Operation Anaconda, they would rot 
have felt comfortable about sling loading in howitzers into the area. Deploying howitzers 
in support of Operation Anaconda would have forced the general to choose between 
artillery and bringing more troops to the battle. The general felt that deploying artillery to 
offset locations would have required deploying some of the infantry to secure the 
positions and that it would have increased the tradeoff between choosing to bring 
howitzers or more infantry. Since MG Hagenbeck had air support and mortars, he felt 
that there was no need for artillery. 96 

Though the mortars have half the range of 105mm howitzers, they proved very 
useful during Operation Anaconda in that they could be used to suppress enemy forces. 
They were used to destroy and suppress A1 Qaeda forces when aircraft were unavailable 
and to engage A1 Qaeda forces that would hide inside caves whenever a fixed wing 
aircraft was heard. 105mm howitzers would have provided slightly more accurate fires 
and have provided more explosive power than the 60mm and 81mm mortars used. Like 

94 mg Franklin L. Hagenbeck, “Afghanistan: Fire Support For Operation Anaconda,” interview by 
Robert H. McElroy, FA Journal, ed. Patrecia Slayden Hollis, (September-October 2002), 6 

95 mg Franklin L. Hagenbeck, “Afghanistan: Fire Support For Operation Anaconda,” 6-7 

96 mg Franklin L. Hagenbeck, “Afghanistan: Fire Support For Operation Anaconda,” 5-8 

54 



mortars, artillery provides fires much faster than air support. The time standard for a 
dedicated howitzer unit to provide fire support to a maneuver force is 9 minutes, 
including the time to clear the mission through the brigade and battalion, which were not 
present at Operation Anaconda. 97 This is considerably faster than the 26 minutes or 
longer that it took to get an air strike. 98 As a result, had it been possible to deploy artillery 
to support Operation Anaconda, the artillery would have proved very useful. 

While artillery and mortars could have helped the special operations forces 
deployed to Afghanistan, the forces did not have the capacity to move them or the 
logistical trail to support artillery or mortars. Only in Operatbn Anaconda could light 
howitzers have helped support U.S. ground forces. MG Hagenbeck indicated that artillery 
would have consumed too much lift capacity in the early part of Operation Anaconda and 
would have been left behind for that reason. 99 During the Battle for LZ X-Ray in the la 
Drang valley in Vietnam, LTC Moore had two batteries dropped into another LZ (LZ 
Falcon) prior to the insertion at LZ X-Ray. lOO Artillery gun crews are large enough to be 
able to defend their own positions. Bringing the guns in prior to the air assault would 
have solved MG Hagenbeck’s issues with bringing in artillery to support Operation 
Anaconda. Deploying early would enable the artillery units to identify and occupy safe 
firing locations. The helicopters could have been used ri preposition the guns and then 
returned to pick up the troops for the operation. If necessary, the guns could have been 
staged at Gardez, which is near the Shah-I-Kot Valley and held in reserve. Bringing the 
guns in early might have cost the element of surprise. Since the A1 Qaeda forces were 
expected to try to escape rather than stand and fight, deploying artillery early to support 
the assault into the Shah-I-Kot Valley might have alerted the A1 Qaeda forces, which 
would enable them to escape. 


97 LTC Mark R. Mueller, “Improving Close Contact Fires,” FA Journal (September-October 2002), 6 

98 mg Franklin L. Hagenbeck, “Afghanistan: Fire Support For Operation Anaconda,” 8 

99 mg Franklin L. Hagenbeck, “Afghanistan: Fire Support For Operation Anaconda,” 6 

100 lTG Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway, We Were Soldiers Once...And Young (New 
York, New York: Random House, 1992), 64-67 


55 



There are tactics and techniques that can be used to camouflage the movement of 
artillery units. By conducting feints prior to an operation, a commander can lull the 
enemy into believing a move is not tactically significant. Another technique is to leak 
disinformation about the intended purpose of deploying guns to a specific location. 

Since the U.S. had chosen not to deploy artillery to Afghanistan, whether it would 
have been employed in support of Operation Anaconda remains debatable. General 
Shinseki argued that the Crusader artillery system could have saved lives. General 
Tommy Franks, the CENTCOM commander, told reporters that he believed the Crusader 
would not have been used. General John M. Keane, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, 
testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that “Crusader could have been 
flown into Bagram air base aboard a C-17 transport jet and driven to Gardez within easy 
range of the battlefield.”ioi If this were true, then the U.S. Army would have deployed a 
Paladin artillery battery or battalion to provide fire support to U.S. forces after Operation 
Anaconda. The Paladin artillery system is the predecessor to the Crusader and can also be 
delivered by C-17 and could have also reached the battlefield easily. The 82"^* Airborne 
Division, which replaced the 10U' in Afghanistan, did bring one of its artillery battalions. 
The battalion has one battery of 105mm howitzers and two batteries of 120mm mortars. 
The 82"‘^ uses the howitzers for both base camp defense and also deploys it by road and 
helicopter to support patrols. 


Artillery support of special operations forces in Afghanistan may have helped 
them accomplish their mission, but it more likely would have impeded them. The special 
operations forces achieved their success in Afghanistan by being highly mobile. To 
maintain their mobility, these forces have to travel light. The Afghan allies had some 
artillery pieces, but did not have the tactical expertise to integrate them into the 
campaign. Artillery and mortars would have slowed the special forces teams down by 
either forcing them to pause the offensive while they stopped to train their Afghan allies 
or to wait until a sufficient logistics tail had been developed. Once regular army units 

101 Vernon Loeb, “General Franks Sides With Rumsfeld On Usefulness Of Crusader Weapon,” 
Washington Post, 3 June 2002, sec A, p. A13, Downloaded from the Lexis-Nexis database at 
www.nexis.comon 3 June 2003 


56 



started to deploy to Afghanistan, light artillery would have been useful. Light Howitzers 
can be sling loaded or towed by truck. Heavy artillery like the Paladin or Crusader, 
though able to fire a heavier shell further, would have been much less useful, because 
they cannot be transported by helicopters and would have been limited to the few roads in 
Afghanistan by the mountainous terrain. Prior to Operation Anaconda the howitzers 
could have been staged at Gardez, where they would have been available if Operation 
Anaconda encountered problems. Light howitzers would have been useful for other 
missions in Afghanistan as well. 


A. ARTILLERY IN LIMITED CONFLICTS 


Ground based fire support systems have many uses in limited conflicts beyond the 
straightforward roll of firing at enemy formations 24 hours a day in any weather. In 
support of maneuver forces, artillery and mortars have many different munitions that can 
be used for purposes other than killing. Developed in Bosnia by the L' Armored Division, 
presence missions deterred the former warring factions from resuming hostilities by 
conveying a visible deterrence. Artillery and mortars can be used for unorthodox 
missions as well. Artillery can be used to distract an enemy’s attention as part of a 
display. During Operation Anaconda, the ground component used mortars to prevent A1 
Qaeda troops from escaping into their caves, which enabled the air force to eliminate 
them. The U.S. military is working to develop non-lethal rounds to facilitate riot control 
and provide a range of responses below the use of lethal force. 

Though unorthodox missions provide flexibility to the commander, the purpose of 
the artillery and mortars is to provide fast, effective fire support to the commander 24 
hours a day, rain or shine. The 82"^* Airborne has deployed an artillery battalion and relies 
on it often. MAJ S. explained, “One thing we have validated here, it is that light 
artillery/mortars are a must, especially in this environment. When weather is bad and 
CAS is not available, we rely on the guns.” 102 The ground commander owns his artillery 

102 mAJ S., Interview by author, Interviews conducted by email on 4 April 2003. MAJ S. is an 
Assistant Fire Support Coordinator in the 82"‘* Airborne Division deployed to Afghanistan. 


57 



and mortars, which means that he controls them, unlike aircraft, which he does not 
control and must wait until he gets priority or his request is granted. During Operation 
Anaconda, the battalion commander of 1-87 IN could not get precision-guided munitions 
to support his battalion, but the mortars of his battalion belonged to him. On multiple 
occasions it took hours to get a target hit by an air strike, which is much slower than it 
takes for mortars and artillery to engage a target. 103 xhis ensures that the fires he requests 
are quickly provided. 


The commander also has the ability to echelon his fires. The term echeloning fires 
means to be able to plan fires to continue to land on a target as the assaulting infantry 
approaches. This takes into account the varying minimum safe distances air, artillery and 
mortars require to be employed to support an attack. If a commander has multiple fire 
support assets supporting his attack against an enemy position, he can initiate the 
suppressing fires against the position using air and artillery. As the assaulting infantry 
approaches the objective, the commander can lift the air and artillery and continue to 
have the mortars strike the objective. When the assaulting infantry reach the minimum 
safe distance for the mortars, the commander can have the fires lifted. The assaulting 
infantry should be close enough to assault the objective before the suppression on the 
defenders wears off. The table below shows the minimum safe distances that assaulting 
infantry can approach as indirect fire strikes an objective: 


Weapon 

Description 

Minimum 

Safe Distance 
(In meters) 


10% PI 

0.1% PI 

MK 82 LD 

500-pound bomb (low drag) 

250m 

450m 

MK 82 HD 

500-pound bomb (high drag) 

lOOm 

350m 

MK 83 LD 

1,000-pound bomb (low drag) 

275m 

500m 

MK 83 HD 

1,000-pound bomb (high drag) 

275m 

500m 

MK 83 LGB 

1,000-pound bomb (laser guided) 

275m 

500m 

MK 84 LD 

2,000-pound bomb (low drag) 

225m 

500m 


Table 1 Risk estimates for aerial delivered munitions. 104 


103 MG Franklin L. Hagenbeck, “Afghanistan: Fire Support For Operation Anaconda,’’ 9 

104 mAJ Gerard Pokorski and Lonnie R. Minton, “Risk Estimate Distances For Indirect Fires In 
Combat,’’ FA Journal 2 (March-April 1997), 9 


58 

































In comparison, the minimum safe distances for mortars and artillery is: 



10% PI 

(Radius in meters) 

0.1% PI 

(Radius in meters) 

Caliber 

#of 

System 

Shell/ 

1/3 

2/3 

Max 

1/3 

2/3 

Max 


guns 


Fuze 

Range 

Range 

Range 

Range 

Range 

Range 

60mm 

3 

M224 

HE/PD 

60 

65 

65 

100 

150 

175 

81mm 

3 

M29A1 

HE/PD 

75 

80 

80 

165 

185 

230 

105mm 

4 

M119 

HE/PD 

85 

85 

90 

175 

200 

275 

155mm 

4 

M198 

HE/PD 

100 

100 

125 

200 

280 

450 

155mm 

4 

M198 

DPICM 

150 

180 

200 

280 

300 

475 


'able 2 Risk estimates for indirect fire systems. 105 


As explained previously, the PI stands for the probability that a soldier will suffer 
an injury requiring medical evacuation. The data is based on infantry assaulting or 
standing in the open. If the soldiers are under cover or prone, the risk of injury decreases. 


By echeloning fires, infantry can close to within 100 meters of an objective while 
it is being suppressed by mortars with a one in a thousand chance of being injured, which 
is five times closer than an infantryman can get to an objective being attacked by MK-83 
laser guided 1,000-pound bombs. The infantryman has a much better chance of crossing 
the additional 400 meters if the target is being suppressed. 


If shell fragments present a danger of collateral damage or fratricide, then the 
mortars or artillery can obscure the area with smoke. Depending on weather conditions, 
artillery and mortar generated smoke can last for minutes. Smoke can be used to screen 
friendly forces from the enemy by placing the smoke between enemy and friendly forces. 
Smoke can also be used to obscure the enemy’s vision by placing it on top of their 
position, which can sow confusion and disrupt communications. If equipped with white 
phosphorous smoke rounds, the rounds can be used to set things on fire or to mark a 
target for aircraft. 


105 mAJ Gerard Pokorski and Lonnie R. Minton, “Risk Estimate Distances Rtr Indirect Fires In 
Combat,’’ 10 


59 
































































Illumination rounds can also be used for marking a target. Though not very useful 
for U.S. forees equipped with night vision devices, few of the anti-Taliban forces have 
night vision capabilities. Illumination rounds also have a slight ability to ignite 
combustibles, though not as effectively as white phosphorous. 

The wide variety of munitions available for use by artillery and mortars provide 
the maneuver eommander with a range of eapabilities. Artillery and mortars ean be used 
to direet fire on a target if needed. This ean be useful against eave entranees proteeted 
from above by overhanging roeks. A1 Qaeda often seleeted eaves that were impervious to 
most Ameriean bombs. MG Hagenbeek reealled that it beeame neeessary to put a 
$14,000 ID AM into eaeh eave entranee, whieh is a problem sinee ID AMs were in limited 
supply. 106 In World War II, U.S. forces used 155mm artillery pieces firing direet fire to 
blow the doors off of bunkers. 107 The eoneussion would stun the defenders to the point 
where they could not resist, but leave them alive to be interrogated. The use of direct fire 
artillery would have been useful at the siege of the prison in Mazar-e-sharif where A1 
Qaeda prisoners revolted on 25 November 2001. The U.S. forces in Mazar-e-sharif 
needed air strikes to suppress the revolt. However, integrating the assaults into the prison 
with air strikes proved very diffieult because of the large minimum safe distance required 
for using 1,000 and 2,000-pound bombs coupled with the diffieulties of positively 
identifying their target. Using air strikes to suppress the uprising proved inefficient. If the 
anti-Taliban forees had had a mortar or field gun, they eould have lobbed rounds into the 
prison eontinuously as they assaulted it. 

Furthermore, artillery and mortars are also useful for harassing an enemy force. 
When used for harassing fire, artillery and mortars are eheap weapons and pinpoint 
aeeuraey is not neeessary. The purpose of the harassing fire is not to kill the enemy, but 
to lower their morale and to intimidate them. 


106 MG Franklin L. Hagenbeek, “Afghanistan: Fire Support For Operation Anaconda,’’ 6-7 
167 Stephen E. Ambrose, Citizen Soldiers (New York, New York: Touchstone, 1997), 164 

60 



In limited conflicts, where fighting has subsided, the objective is often to deter the 
resumption of violence between warring factions by maintaining an image of strength. 
During the peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo, the divisions and brigades 
deploying on the peacekeeping missions would use their artillery and mechanized forces 
to coerce the various factions into behaving. When a patrol went out to inspect a weapon 
storage site or recon the area, the artillery battery in its area would plan a presence 
mission to ensure the patrol remained inside the radius of artillery coverage. 

In the Balkans the presence mission served as a visible reminder to the factions 
that the peacekeepers were prepared for any contingency. When preparing for the raid, 
the commander would select a route that would be visible to the various factions. Unlike 
in combat, the objective is to be seen. By presenting a visible presence, the artillery unit 
signals that the American military is prepared to use whatever level of force is needed. 
President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Speak saftly and carry a big stick.” The 
presence mission is the maneuver commander’s way of showing people that he has a big 
stick. 


In 1997, when the 1-6 FA conducted a relief in place of 1-7 FA, the incoming 
commander gave guidance that each firing platoon was to conduct a fire support rehearsal 
with its supported unit every day. The platoons supporting the NordPol Brigade had to 
practice their fire missions over unsecured radio nets. The units they supported were from 
nine other nations and did not have the encryption that U.S. units had. Within a week, the 
leaders of the three different factions in NordPol Brigade’s sector had met with the 
commander and asked what they had done to anger him. All three factions had monitored 
the artillery unit’s rehearsals for combat and the faction leaders wanted to know what 
they could do to get back in the NordPol Brigade commander’s good graces, xhis not 
only made the commander’s job easier because the factions were intimidated, but it 
confirmed that each faction was collecting intelligence on the peacekeeping force by 
monitoring their radio nets. While the light artillery deployed to Afghanistan has not been 

108 Timothy Prater, Interview by author, Interviews conducted by email and phone in 31 May 2003. 
MAI Timothy Prater served as the Division Assistant Fire Support Coordinator to Multi-National Division 
(North) in Bosnia from March to September in 1997. 


61 



conducting presence missions in the same way that heavy artillery units are doing in 
Bosnia, the unit has been conducting numerous air assault operations to support 
maneuver forces and is often seen deploying in helicopters throughout the area of 
operations. xhis provides a visible presence that the Afghans can observe. 

Employing the supporting artillery as a deterrert is an unorthodox mission. Other 
unorthodox ways of employing artillery in limited conflicts are to distract enemy forces 
by carrying out a display. Non-lethal munitions are being developed to enable artillery to 
assist the maneuver commander in dealing with civilian mobs. In Bosnia, the various 
factions often hold demonstrations and the United States is often challenged to find a 
non- lethal solution to the problem. 

The Field Artillery has been developing rounds that deploy malodorants, engine 
disrupters, combustion inhibitors, flash-bang devices, taggants, foams and obscurants. 
The objective of these rounds is to disperse crowds, identify demonstrators from civilians 
and to immobili z e vehicles without destroying or killing. Since these munitions are still 
under development, it cannot yet be determined whether they will be cost effective. 
When fully developed and deployed, these munitions will provide the maneuver 
commander with an increased range of possible responses in a situation not requiring 
lethal force. 

When lethal force is required, having artillery available provides the commander 
with expanded options. In Operation Anaconda, when A1 Qaeda fighters heard 
approaching fixed wing aircraft they would seek shelter in caves that were invulnerable 
to most aerial delivered munitions. When the air strike had ended, the A1 Qaeda fighters 
would come out of the cave to continue fighting. If the mortars were not able to penetrate 
the cover provided by the A1 Qaeda fighter’s fighting position, the mortars were used to 
prevent the fighter from retreating into the cave when an air strike was about to take 
place. MG Hagenbeck reported that the U.S. forces achieved a number of kills using this 


109 mAJ S., Interview by author, Interviews conducted by email on 4 April 2003. 


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method. 110 By developing unorthodox methods of applying firepower, U.S. forces 
achieved better effects than if they had employed the systems in doctrinal manners. 


Doctrine calls for the execution of combined arms operations to achieve victory. 
In Afghanistan, the U.S military chose not to employ field artillery in support of its 
regular ground maneuver forces, which occasionally left the ground forces without fire 
support. When the special operations forces deployed to Afghanistan, this could not be 
helped because the U.S. had not been able to deploy the needed logistic infrastructure to 
sustain artillery fire support. Even after the lOU' and 10^’’ divisions deployed, employing 
heavy mechanized artillery, like the crusader, would have been an impediment and not a 
boon. But light artillery, like the Ml 19 105mm howitzer, would have facilitated 
operations by providing coverage when aircraft were unavailable or capabilities that 
aircraft cannot provide. 


110 MG Franklin L. Hagenbeck, “Afghanistan: Fire Support For Operation Anaconda,” 7 

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V. CONCLUSION 


Operation Enduring Freedom became the example of the ‘new’ model of warfare, 
according to its proponents, of how the United States will fight limited wars in the future. 
According to proponents of the new model of warfare, the United States needs only a few 
soldiers on the ground coordinating the overwhelming fire provided by the U.S. Air 
Force. The model further argues that artillery is obsolete, because air power provides 
heavier firepower more accurately in support of ground forces, is more mobile and is less 
vulnerable, since it can operate from outside the combat zone. Dr Biddle’s paper 
challenges this view, arguing that the Afghanistan campaign was an example of orthodox 
theater warfare, m As a test for the continuing relevancy of artillery in limited conflicts. 
Operation Enduring Freedom proved to be a good test. The new model argues that air 
support was all that was needed. In Afghanistan, the Air Force had no other competing 
missions. 112 On numerous occasions air power proved unavailable or unable to support 
ground maneuver forces. Ground commanders still need fire support systems that are 
under their control to ensure responsive fire support. Even when the commander has 
control of his air support, there are times when the commander needs weapons with small 
burst radii to limit effects to the enemy. This demonstrates the continuing relevance of 
ground based fire support. 

At the same time, artillery is widely perceived to be becoming irrelevant. This 
stems from the ongoing attempt by the United States Army’s Field Artillery branch to 
compete with the U.S. Air Force in providing massive firepower in combat. The 
cancellation of the Crusader artillery system serves as a reminder that artillery needs to 
focus more on supporting the maneuver commander and less on competing with the Air 
Force to provide massive fire support. Prior to the end of the Cold War, the Field 
Artillery evolved towards providing more firepower. The Field Artillery branch needs to 
evolve in a new direction, towards providing better support to the maneuver commander. 

m Stephen Biddle, Afghanistan And The Future Of Warfare: Implications For Army And Defense 
Policy (Carlise, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2002), 1-58 

112 xhe Taliban’s air force and anti-aircraft capabilities had largely been destroyed by the time U.S. 
ground forces arrived in Afghanistan. 


65 



The Air Force has struggled to be independent as a branch for much of its early 
history. This has worked to the advantage of the United States because the first and most 
important mission of the Air Force is to dominate the airspace over the countries at war. 
The value of airspace domination lies in the uses that control of the air can provide, 
reconnaissance, transportation, close air support and the ability to deny these advantages 
from the enemy. Once the Air Force achieves that domination, it needs to be flexible 
enough to take advantage of its airspace dominance. Until the Air Force chooses to 
increase the priority of the close air support mission, the new model of warfare will never 
be fully validated. To improve its ability to provide close air support, those air elements 
providing the support to ground forces will have to accept a subordinate role to the 
ground forces. This idea of subordination works against the concept of independence that 
the Air Force campaigned for, which has impacted its willingness to provide responsive 
close air support. 

Close air support has become a very important part of fighting limited wars. Since 
World War II, the United States began to substitute firepower for maneuver as a means of 
limiting casualties in limited conflicts. Though the United States has always sought to 
employ massive, overwhelming firepower, the Korean War became the first war where 
the maneuver force did not seek to destroy the enemy but to identify the enemy for 
destruction by artillery and close air support. This has driven the artillery’s efforts at 
providing artillery pieces that can provide more and heavier fire support. This has been 
fueled by the perception that the United States is casualty averse. 

The 1990s led to some changes in U.S. warfighting doctrine. The desire to avoid 
collateral damage and friendly casualties has led the United States to an increasing 
reliance on precision guided munition which seeks to limit the effects of firepower to the 
target. The paradigm changed ‘Bigger’ firepower is no longer necessarily better. To 
minimize collateral damage, commanders seek to limit destructive effects to just the 
target. Since artillery and mortars are predominantly perceived to be area fire weapon 
systems, this has raised the question of artillery and mortars relevance. 


66 



The new head of the National Guard, Lieutenant General Steven Blum, stated 
“that artillery units might no longer be needed because of improvements in precision 
guided munitions.”! 13 The National Guard Chief based his opinion on the belief that the 
United States has to transform its military to fit the new model of warfare. The new 
model of warfare argues that the military needs to able to deploy faster and that by 
relying on the Air Force, the Army can transform into a lighter more deployable force. 
Under that assumption, the 10'*’ Mountain Division did not bring its artillery with the task 
force that deployed to Afghanistan. During Operation Anaconda, situations arose where 
air power was unavailable or unable to support the ground maneuver forces. Deploying 
light artillery would have provided the maneuver commander with a reliable source of 
dedicated fire support. Dr. Biddle concludes that the campaign in Afghanistan should not 
be used as a template to transform the military. He argues that Afghanistan was not a 
change in the warfighting doctrine paradigm or a unique case, but an example of joint 
warfare employing maneuver supported by firepower. Afghanistan proved to be an 
aberration in that there were few strategic targets for the Air Force, resulting in the Air 
Force focusing on close air support. ii4 Gulf II has already shown the afghan model only 
works when no other targets are available. Ground units occasionally had to wait until 
they became a priority. ii5 The objective of the recent ‘Shock and Awe’ bombing 
campaign by the Air Force against Iraq was to convince the Iraqis that resistance was 
futile. The air campaign effectively destroyed much of the Iraqi military forces facing the 
U.S. ground forces, but did not psychologically break the Iraqis, because the Iraqis 
expected to face overwhelming airpower. While it helped the ground campaign by 
destroying Iraqi Forces, the bombing failed to break the Iraqis’ will to resist, even though 
the Iraqis were helpless against the Air Force. The Iraqis’ will to resist only collapsed 
when M1A2 Abrams and M3A2 Bradleys drove through Baghdad with impunity. 116 

113 James Dao and Eric Schmitt, “New National Guard Chief Calls For A More Agile Force,” New 
York Times, 17 May 2003, Downloaded from Earlybird database on 21 May 2003 

114 Stephen Biddle, Afghanistan And The Future Of Warfare, 1-58 

113 BBC News, “Iraq Air Support ‘Failed UK Troops’,” BBC News, 26 May 2003, Downloaded on 26 
May 2003 from http://news.bbc.co.uk 

116 Eric Schmitt, “Top General Concedes Aerial Bombardment Did Not Fully Meet Goal,” New York 
Times, 26 March 2003, Downloaded from the Earlybird database on 26 March 2003 


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Though artillery remains relevant, it needs to change. The Field Artillery has 
focused on the deep fight and larger, heavier artillery pieces. Targets that require massed 
fires from multiple artillery units to destroy are usually either slow moving or very large 
and visible. The Air Force has repeatedly demonstrated that it can eliminate targets that 
are visible or slow moving. By developing howitzers, like the Crusader, capable of 
providing more massive firepower in competition with the Air Force’s ability to engage 
these targets, the artillery fuels the belief that it is becoming irrelevant. The Air Force has 
the ability to deliver more firepower than the field artillery and can always deliver more 
firepower when it wishes. An A10 ground attack fighter can carry 16,000 pounds of 
external ordinance per sortie, the equivalent of 160 155mm high explosive (HE) shells, 
and a B-52D can carry 70,000 pounds of conventional bombs per sortie, the equivalent of 
700 155mm HE shells. Both aircraft have the capability of employing precision guided 
munitions. 117 

Dominance of airspace has rightly been the Air Eorce’s primary mission and 
should remain the primary mission. But once it has seized control of the air, the Air Eorce 
needs to put the control of the air to good use. The main value of control of the air is the 
ability to use control of the air to influence ground combat. Initially, the air campaign 
over Afghanistan focused on targets that did not support the Northern Alliance. Within a 
few days the Air Eorce began to have difficulties finding targets worth bombing. This 
caused some angst at the national level, because it gave the impression that little progress 
was being made. Once ground forces were introduced, the ground forces began to 
provide targeting information, allowing the Air Eorce to provide close air support. The 
transition to providing close air support enabled the Northern Alliance to go on the 
offensive, leading to the Taliban’s downfall. 


117 Bill Gunston, Modern Military Aircraft (New York, New York: Crescent Books, 1977), 64 & 110 
and FM 6-40, Field Artillery Manual Cannon Gunnery, (Washington D.C.: Department of the Army, 23 
April, 1996), pg. 7-5 

118 Bob Woodward, Bush At War, 210-313 


68 



For the Air Force, the close air support mission has historically been a low 
priority. The Air Force needs to implement certain changes to improve its delivery of 
close air support. The current fighter jets in use, with the exception of the A-10, fly too 
fast to be able to acquire and engage targets in close proximity to friendly ground troops. 
The bombs used are often too big and there are seldom enough trained personnel certified 
to coordinate air strikes. 

The Air Force Special Operations Command has begun to examine increasing the 
number of personnel attending schools. Increasing the number of enlisted terminal attack 
controllers (ETAC) and ground forward air controllers (GFAC) will improve the 
availability of close air support. Still, the Army often employs platoons on dispersed 
operations over large areas in limited conflicts as an economy of force. The U.S. Army’s 
Field Artillery Branch already has a structure assigned to the platoon level of ground 
maneuver units in place. By developing a program to certify forward observers in 
coordinating precision aerial delivered munitions, ground maneuver units to the platoon 
level would then have the ability to get air support as needed. 

To improve availability of close air support, the Air Force needs to keep its fleet 
of ground attack aircraft. Currently, the Air Force is examining whether to decommission 
its last eight squadrons of A 10s. The other options the Air Force is examining for the 
close air support mission are the F16 and the F35, when it becomes available. The 
Air Force designed both aircraft for aerial combat and the ability to engage ground targets 
is a secondary consideration. Due to the cost of the F-35, the Air Force will probably not 
want to risk it being damaged by ground fire, which will force the aircraft to engage 
ground targets from high altitudes. This will limit the accuracy of the close air support 
unless the Air Force employs precision-guided munitions. 

The precision-guided munitions employed by the Air Force are bo large; the 
JDAM can only be mounted on the 1,000-pound and 2,000-pound bombs. This is 
economical, because the JDAM costs $14,000. This compares favorably with the cost of 

119 Robert Coram, “The Hog That Saves The Grunts,” New York Times, 21 May 2003, Downloaded 
from Earlybird database on 27 May 2003 


69 



a high explosive 155nini artillery round which costs approximately $500 and is only 100- 
pounds. It requires 10 or 20 artillery rounds to equal the explosive punch of a single 
JDAM. The problem with large bombs is that the burst radius is so large that they cannot 
be employed near friendly troops, which is where close air support is often needed. The 
Air Force has begun to develop smaller precision-guided bombs that can be employed in 
the proximity of ground troops. 

The Field Artillery Branch has also begun to develop a precision-guided artillery 
round utilizing global positioning system technology. The GPS guided artillery, the 
Excalibur, will probably cost as much as the Air Force’s new smaller version of the 
JDAM. Demonstrating that the artillery is still seeking to compete with the Air Force’s 
strengths of precision fire support. 

A better objective of the Field Artillery Branch is to develop non-lethal artillery 
rounds that support the ground commander in limit conflicts. The artillery is developing 
artillery rounds that can disperse a crowd of demonstrators, immobili z e vehicles and tag 
for identification rioters. By providing the maneuver commander with a range of 
capabilities, the artillery increases its relevancy. 

The purpose of artillery is to support the ground maneuver commander. Over the 
last century, the Field Artillery Branch has gotten away from that mission. In order to 
remain relevant, the Field Artillery needs to once again focus on providing the maneuver 
commander with fire support. Artillery and mortars are still the only fire support assets 
available to the maneuver commander 24 hours a day in all weather conditions. 
Afghanistan tested whether maneuver could operate while relying exclusively on air 
support and it demonstrated once again that the commander has to have a fire support 
asset dedicated for his use as needed. For the foreseeable future artillery and mortars will 
fill that requirement. 


70 



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THIS PAGE INTENTIONALLY LEET BLANK 


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INITIAL DISTRIBUTION LIST 


1. Defense Technical Information Center 
Ft. Belvoir, Virginia 

2. Dudley Knox Library 
Naval Postgraduate School 
Monterey, California 

3. Keith Augenthauler 
Civilian 
Coppell, Tx 

4. Major Timothy Prater 
U.S. Army 

Tupelo, Ms 


77