Close Air Support (CAS) Roadmap
By Combat Air Branch, JAPCC
After the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan many of the Tactics, Techniques, Procedures (TTP) and Lessons Learned / Lessons Identified (LL/LI) were driven by the scenario of a permissive air environment. As part of this, NATO’s Close Air Support (CAS) and Forward Air Control (FAC) capabilities have matured along these lines. In addition, the operational environment is constantly shifting. This shift began with a hybrid-warfare paradigm and was succeeded by an Anti-Access/Area Denial environment; thus it is becoming apparent that new and complex problems of the operational theatre regarding CAS can only be solved by integrating LAND/MARITIME/SOF service visions with the Air Force.
CAS evolution has been dependent on technological developments and it will surely continue to evolve as technology improves. However, the means in which the Air Force will support all three services will require solutions and methods more than purely technological improvements.
Aim & Scope
The aim of this project is to provide recommendations on how the CAS and Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) communities should adapt and leverage emerging capabilities to meet future operational requirements(using the SFA, FFAO and JAPS analyses as a baseline) in the long term (defined for this study as 10-15 years).
Recent technological advances in aircraft, weapon systems and munitions provided JTACs with additional tools to maximize effects of fires while decreasing risk of fraternization when employing air power in close proximity to friendly forces. Joint fires assist AIR/LAND/MARITIME/SOF by creating conditions that provide the supported commander freedom of action in conducting military operations for synergistic results. Joint fire support can be enhanced by interoperable systems, a broad understanding of the strengths and limitations of each service’s or component’s capabilities, and a clear understanding of how they might be best applied and integrated. Joint fire support is achieved through coordinated interaction of all elements within the fire support system, thorough and continuous planning, aggressive coordination, and vigorous execution.
Even though future technology will continue to evolve the CAS/JTAC capability, the study will not only focus on emerging CAS/JTAC technologies but will also analyze joint perspectives, including joint fires and how new systems can be implemented into the CAS/JTAC mission area. These capabilities, which can be used for either defensive or offensive purposes, will determine the technological requirements for future CAS/JTAC which must be integrated with platforms, equipment and munitions. Since decreased funding and resourcing issues are consistently in the commanders’ agenda, services must find new, more efficient methods such as improving civ/mil relations or using non-lethal weapons. The new unconventional approaches result in the revision of the longstanding philosophy of destruction to the enemy above all else.
In order to assess future technologies of CAS/JTAC, the study will commence with a discussion, based on the future scenarios presented in the FFAO and SFA, of future conflicts and operational considerations which could influence CAS/JTAC. From this starting point, requirements for CAS/JTAC and joint fires will be derived. This may also include adaptation to the emerging future technologies and methods. Effort will be given in this research to clarify how CAS and the TACP will fit into the Joint Fires plan and how the Ground Commander will use this to meet objectives. In the future operational environment, cyber, electronic warfare, intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance, unmanned air vehicle and Close Combat Attack assets will have to be considered. The study will then draft a CAS/JTAC roadmap based on a gap analysis between anticipated requirements and emerging future systems and methods. Finally, opportunities and threats which might occur while implementing this future CAS/JTAC roadmap will be analyzed.
The following assumptions are preconditions for the project:
- There is political will to endorse this initiative.
- Emerging new crisis may alter defense priorities.
- Sufficient information regarding current/future operational environment for CAS/JTAC capabilities exist in the unclassified realm to provide meaningful data points for analysis.
- Although technological dependency of future CAS/JTAC systems and processes may increase, technology will not be the only factor in the execution of CAS/JTAC
The aim of this project is to provide NATO and national key decision makers with relevant information regarding the future challenges of CAS. This document seeks to influence the graduated response plans NATO leadership has available for future contingencies/operations that require CAS/JTAC capability. Specifically, it seeks to outline the following topics regarding CAS/JTAC:
- outcomes of recent developments and challenges;
- anticipated future requirements, including C2, ISR, joint fires, platforms, equipment and munitions based on existing NATO analyses such as SFA, FFAO and JAPS;
- joint perspectives, including joint fires and how new systems can be implemented into the CAS/JTAC mission area
- gap analysis between the anticipated requirements and emerging capabilities, concluding with development of a NATO CAS/JTAC roadmap;
- opportunities and threats which might occur while implementing this future CAS/JTAC roadmap.
Colonel Joseph Speed, USA AF
Major Bircan Dokuzlar, TUR AF