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News | July 15, 2021

CAS Lessons Learned at the Combat Training Center

By Maj Brian Rogers, USAF Air Land Sea Application Center

Article Originally Published in Air Land Sea Bulletin 1993-4, December 1993

The following is a synopsis of CAS Lessons Learned from four Air Warrior (AW) exercises conducted in the spring and summer of 1993. Like a mission briefing, the important items are listed in order from start to finish. As Army data were not available at press time, this information comes exclusively from USAF AW reports. CAS lessons learned include a mix of predeployment, air-ground coordination, weapons employment, and post-attack considerations.

The first predeployment lesson is deploying fighter units bring their ground liaison officer (GLO) whenever possible. Not only do GLOs enhance the realism of training for aircrew, intel officers, and themselves, they get better at advising Air Force commanders on CAS employment and do a lot toward integrating joint air-ground teams.

There are two predeployment training lessons. First, Fighter units (particularly F-16s) that don’t regularly fly CAS missions from home station should conduct a CAS spin-up before deploying. Such a program should be aimed at building proficiency on basic CAS-related tasks, so that squadrons can hit the ground running when they get to AW/National Training Center (NTC). Second, all deploying units, especially TACPs, must be proficient in the use of Have Quick II.

With regard to employment, slow coordination of fires was identified in several rotations as a significant problem that delayed live drops and resulted in single-pass CAS sorties. In addition to the obvious real-world considerations (you snooze, you lose), these delays detract from the unique training opportunities available at AW/NTC and can leave Army commanders with the impression that fighters have a one pass-haul ass mentality—which just isn’t the case!

A second weapons employment lesson involved a ground commander’s reluctance to let CAS aircraft employ CBU-87s (Combined Effects Munitions) when follow-on attacks were planned through the same area. According to and AW final report, CBU-87s, which can be highly effective against enemy armor, have a much lower dud rate than older CBU-52 and Rockeye and should minimally affect subsequent troop movements.

A very important post-attack lesson for air and ground units of all services was noted repeatedly: the value of real-time battlefield intel/target information passed down from fighters and AFACs to TACPs, GFACs, ALOs, and ground force S-2s. In some instances, this information was exploited: in other cases, when it could have been useful to air and ground forces, it was ignored.

Bottom Line

CAS is a real force multiplier that can help carry the day on the battlefield. Furthermore, as it says in our doctrine and tactics manuals, being on time and flying smart—in terms of varied run-ins, attack geometry, and post-target maneuvering—gets steel on target, keeps the bad guys guessing, and gets us home safely to rearm and do it again!

Disclaimer. The opinions, conclusions, and recommendations expressed or implied within are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Defense or any other agency of the Federal Government.

Originally released December 1993 in Air Land Sea Bulletin 1993-04.