Figure 1-1. This chapter explains the characteristics of fire support. It addresses the following general areas:

Combat Power = Maneuver + Firepower + Protection + Leadership


In war, the generation of maximum combat power results from the most efficient use of firepower and maneuver. These elements are different but inseparable, and both are equally important in the conduct of battle. But combat power consists of other elements, to include leadership and protection.


Maneuver is the movement of forces in relation to the enemy to secure or retain positional advantage. It is the dynamic element of combat--the means of concentrating forces at the critical point to achieve the surprise, psychological shock, physical momentum, and moral dominance which enable smaller forces to defeat larger ones.


Firepower is produced by all weapons and attack systems available to the force commander. Many of these weapons and attack systems, with the exception of certain ground direct-fire weapons, are in the category of fire support, which constitutes a major source of firepower.


Protection is the conservation of the fighting potential of a force so that it can be applied at the decisive time and place. Protection has two components. The first includes all actions that are taken to counter enemy firepower and maneuver by making soldiers, systems, and units difficult to locate, strike, and destroy. The second includes actions to keep soldiers healthy and to maintain their fighting morale.


The most essential element of combat power is competent and confident leadership. Leadership provides purpose, direction, and motivation in combat. It is the leader who will determine the degree to which maneuver, firepower, and protection are maximized; who will ensure these elements are effectively balanced; and who will decide how to bring them to bear against the enemy.


Fire support is the collective and coordinated use of indirect-fire weapons, armed aircraft, and other lethal and nonlethal means in support of a battle plan. Fire support includes mortars, field artillery, naval gunfire, air defense artillery in secondary mission, and air-delivered weapons. Nonlethal means are EW capabilities of military intelligence organizations, illumination, and smoke. The force commander employs these means to support his scheme of maneuver, to mass firepower, and to delay, disrupt, or destroy enemy forces in depth. Fire support planning and coordination exist at all echelons of maneuver. Fire support destroys, neutralizes, and suppresses enemy weapons, enemy formations or facilities, and fires from the enemy rear area. In a large-scale nuclear conflict, fire support could be the principal means of destroying enemy forces. In this event, the scheme of maneuver would be designed specifically to capitalize on the effects of fire support.


Fire support is the product of a system consisting of three parts:


The fire support system is a single entity composed of a diverse group of systems, personnel, and materiel, most of which operate in different ways. The methods of providing individual fire support assets such as mortars, field artillery, air support, naval gunfire, and EW may vary in terms of command and control (Cē) and tactics and techniques. However, the fire support system must function as a unified force.

Because of the diversity of the individual fire support means, the total fire support system does not function through a common chain of command as does a maneuver organization. The force commander does exercise Cē over his organic fire support assets, but he has limited control over external fire support resources that are made available for his use. The force commander's ability to employ all available fire support, as a system, and to integrate and synchronize fire support with his battle plan results from an established process known as fire support planning and coordination.

Fire support planning and coordination is the operational linchpin of the fire support system. Formal coordination binds fire support resources together in a common effort so that the multiple effects of each fire support asset are synchronized with the force commander's battle plan. Fire support coordination entails the planning and execution of fires so that targets are adequately attacked by a suitable weapon or group of weapons. In discussing the coordination of fire support, it becomes obvious that cooperation among the various fire support agencies is necessary for the effective delivery of fires. This is especially true in fire support coordination in joint operations. However, it must be acknowledged that military operations that rely solely on actions based on a cooperative consensus are ultimately doomed to failure. The FSCOORD is the driving force behind fire support coordination. Therefore, cooperation must be thought of as a product of the directive force the commander exerts to drive the fire support system as a whole and the authority he gives the FSCOORD to execute it. Command direction of fire support can be expressed in the following principles:

  • The fire support system must operate as one force. This means that all fire support assets in all three components (command, control, and coordination facilities and personnel; target acquisition and battlefield surveillance; and weapons) must function with a unity of effort and purpose--the effective delivery of fire support.

  • The fire support system must be responsive to the needs of the force commander. Individual interests and concerns of each fire support agency or asset must be made subordinate to the overall mission and to the maneuver commander as represented by his FSCOORD .

  • Direction of the fire support system is the responsibility of the field artillery commander. The force commander charges him to ensure that all available means of fire support are fully integrated and synchronized with the battle plan. He serves as the force commander's fire support coordinator and speaks for the force commander on all matters pertaining to fire support.


    The FSCOORD discharges his responsibility for coordinating fire support by applying the four tenets of AirLand Battle--initiative, agility, synchronization, and depth--to ensure the whole system accomplishes its essential tasks. These tasks are the basic requirements the fire support system must fulfill to destroy, neutralize, or suppress the enemy. The fire support tasks give the force commander and the FSCOORD a frame of reference to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the fire support system. These requirements, referred to as the four basic tasks of fire support, are:

    These four basic tasks serve as unifying factors for the fire support system. They unite the fire support resources. Each of these four tasks, in addition to applying to the system as a whole, applies to the individual fire support parts. The four basic tasks do not change or replace the traditional missions, roles, and operations of the different fire support assets. They do, however, provide a common point of departure for an operationally unified fire support system. For example, tactical air forces in support of ground operations must accomplish the four basic tasks simultaneously. However, a tactical air force does not consciously plan to work the four tasks. Rather, it accomplishes its ground support mission through its normal provision of close air support (CAS), interdiction (air interdiction [AI] and battlefield air interdiction [BAI]), and suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD). It synchronizes and sustains its operations through the functioning of the tactical air control system/Army air-ground system (TACS/AAGS). The final assessment of the ground support mission must be made in terms of the four tasks. To further clarify these points, it is necessary to examine each basic task.

    Support Forces in Contact

    Prerequisite to the performance of this task is the ability to respond to forces engaged with the enemy. This responsiveness includes ground and air maneuver forces, naval gunfire, and the air arm flying in support of ground operations. Also, this task enhances the survivability of friendly forces and the freedom of maneuver. Individual fire support assets support forces in contact in various time-tested roles and missions. The field artillery supports forces in contact by performing its traditional roles of close support, counterfire, and interdiction. The Air Force operations of CAS and SEAD are specifically intended to support forces in contact, although BAI can directly affect ground maneuver forces.

    Support the Force Commander's Battle Plan

    The performance of this task enables the force commander to influence the battle with firepower. It gives him the means to attack designated high-payoff targets whose destruction, neutralization, or suppression will be most beneficial to the successful accomplishment of his mission. The fire support system responds to the force commander's plan through the provision of timely and accurate fires.

    Synchronize Fire Support

    Synchronization, in addition to being one of the four basic tasks, is also one of the tenets of AirLand Battle doctrine. In terms of fire support, it is the precise arrangement of coordinated activities in time, space, and purpose to produce the most effective fires. Synchronization is both a process and a result. It requires unity of effort throughout the force. The artillery force commander synchronizes the fire support system and thereby gains the right attack means delivered on the right target at the right time. Synchronization must occur within the fire support system itself and also with other battlefield operating systems such as maneuver, command control, air defense, intelligence, mobility and survivability, and combat service support.

    Fire support coordination is the primary means of synchronizing fire support. It involves the tactical and technical considerations necessary to deliver fires on target. This includes the exercise of fire support C3. The FSCOORD accomplishes fire support coordination for the force commander. The key ingredient stems from the commander's initial visualization of his mission objectives and how specific actions must be sequenced and timed to achieve them. Fire support synchronization should not require explicit and repeated coordination if all fire support representatives understand the commander's intent. The requirement forcoordination is reduced when fire support personnel clearly understand the commander's intent. Rehearsal of the fire plan as an integral part of the operation plan is the key to synchronization.

    Figure 1-2.

    Sustain Fire Support

    The accomplishment of this task ensures the survivability of the entire fire support system. It involves the performance of those actions necessary to achieve the survival of logistic and technical support for the fire support assets available to the commander.


    The study of fire support should be in with a review of the basic principles for all military actions. These are the principles of war, and they have an indirect bearing on the employment of fire support.


    Economy of Force
    Unity of Command


    A fire support plan must have a clearly defined objective that is in consonance with the force commander's intent. The objectives of an operation must be translated into specific targeting guidance as recommended by the FSCOORD for the fire support system. This guidance will include instructions concerning the fire support attack and defeat criteria for predetermined high-payoff targets.

    In applying the principle of objective to fire support, the FSCOORD must ensure that a detailed comparison of friendly fire support strengths versus enemy capabilities is made early in the operational planning cycle. This means that fire support personnel must know the functional and operational aspects of the enemy force. The fire support system must aggressively seek out those targets whose destruction will degrade the enemy effort the most and enable the force commander to accomplish the mission.


    Fire support must always be conducted in the spirit of the offense. Effective fire support must attain and maintain the initiative in attacking the enemy. Regardless of whether the combat force is engaged in the offense or is in a defensive posture, its fire support must be offensively oriented as it strikes high-payoff targets throughout the depth of enemy echelons. It is important that the fire support system be used to seek out the enemy and force him to alter his battle plan. The use of fire support in a constantly reactive mode violates the principle of offense. Fire support must be proactive not reactive.


    The principle of mass applies to fire support as it does to all other resources at the disposal of a commander. The operational and tactical employment of fire support weapons and exploit the Principle of mass. Fire support weapons and units are not physically massed, but they must be able to provide maximum massed fires when and where they are required to support the battle plan. The actual methods of achieving massed fires vary with each fire support attack system. The use of nuclear and chemical weapons greatly increases the power of massed fires. FM 100-5 states that maneuver forces may be used to exploit the massed effects of nuclear weapons.


    Maneuver, as it pertains to the fire support system, is maneuver by fire. This implies the capability to transfer and distribute massed fire quickly from one point or area to another over a wide frontage and out to a great depth. It also implies the mobility to displace rapidly and to keep pace with the maneuver arms. The fire support system must maintain a sufficient degree of flexibility in altering missions, command relationships, and priorities of fire as battlefield conditions mature.

    Economy of Force

    Through the use of decide-detect-deliver methodology, the economy-of-force principle is exercised to avoid an overload of the system by establishing priorities on how and when fire support will be used to meet critical demands. Economy of force requires that fire support be employed in conformance with the principles of mass and maneuver. Seldom will enough fire support assets, particularly field artillery, be available to support the total requirements of rear, close, and deep operations concurrently. This means than an operation or a committed force might not be given all the fire support it fully needs. A unit may be given only minimum adequate support to meet the commander's intent of the operations, and this may involve taking certain risks. The use of any one means of fire support must be such that the full weight of that particular attack means is placed on those targets that cannot be attacked with equal or greater success by any other type of fire support asset. Economy of force also implies that the fire support effort allocated to a given task shall not exceed the effort necessary to produce the desired result. The ability of the fire support system to fulfill its objective depends on the capability to sustain critical resources, especially munitions.

    Unity of Command

    The principle of unity of command supports the necessity for synchronizing fires within the fire support system and with the commander's scheme of maneuver. The achievement of unity of command is a critical objective of a successful fire support system. Unity of command is established by vesting in the FSCOORD the requisite authority to direct and coordinate all fire support on behalf of the force commander and on the basis of his guidance and delineation of fire support tasks. To ensure this unity, the air liaison officer (ALO) and air/naval gunfire liaison company (ANGLICO) personnel at each level should be under the direction of the FSCOORD at that level.


    There are two aspects of security in relation to fire support. The first aspect concerns the general security the fire support system must provide the force as a whole. Protecting the force is a prime consideration in the basic task of supporting forces in contact. The second aspect involves sustaining the survivability of the fire support system. The commander must weigh the importance of providing continuous fire support to the maneuver commander against the possibility of receiving counterfire as a result of enemy target acquisition capabilities. Certain fire support assets, such as nuclear delivery units, present high-value targets for the Threat force. These assets must be afforded a greater measure of security. Risk is another consideration concerning security. The application of the principle of security does not suggest overcautiousness or the avoidance of calculated risk. The principle of security is directly related to the task of sustainment.


    The principle of surprise is as important to the employment of fire support as it is to any other battlefield function. Fire support enables the commander to achieve surprise with the instantaneous delivery of a high volume of fire on the enemy without warning. Deception and secrecy are prime means of achieving surprise with fire support.


    The process of fire support coordination is a complex series of interactions. For this reason, the fire support plans are clear, concise, and uncomplicated in their stated objectives.


    The development of AirLand Battle as the Army fighting doctrine does not pose any revolutionary challenges for the fire support system. Instead, It reestablishes a requirement to increase the scope of fire support to an operational level that has not existed since the Second World War.

    FM 100-5 describes AirLand Battle as encompassing three inseparable operational aspects. These are the deep operation, the close operation, and the rear operation. The force commander is responsible for conducting these operations on a simultaneous basis. The requirement to integrate and synchronize fire support with these three operations is inherent in this responsibility.

    At the higher echelons of command, echelons above corps, the execution of the three operations of AirLand Battle will take place at the operational level of warfare. (NOTE: A corps could be involved at the operational level of warfare.) The objective of fire support at the operational level is to destroy, neutralize, or suppress high-payoff targets affecting the outcome of- a campaign or major operation. The synchronization of operational-level fire support usually results from the joint campaign planning process. This process entails high-level coordination and cooperation among fire support assets representing the various services. Specific examples of operational fire support include the campaign J-SEAD, the joint attack of the second echelon (JSAK), and the conduct of deep operations by fire support. Fire support assets that will be used at the operational level include Air Force support providing air interdiction and battlefield air interdiction as well as field artillery providing long-range rocket and missile fires.

    "How can any man say what he should do himself if he is ignorant of what his adversary is about."-Jomini


    A Soviet or Soviet-styled force continues to represent the greatest potential threat to the United States from now into the next century. Soviet technological achievements over the past decade have made possible great qualitative improvements in their weaponry in addition to their already significant quantitative edge. These qualitative advances, as well as the realization that the premature massing of units for breakthrough operations will likely result in their destruction, have caused a departure from their more traditional tactics. Soviet planners now recognize that the traditional massing of men and materiel in a breakthrough sector can be defeated by modern target acquisition and weapons; that is, fire support. Soviet doctrinal solutions to this observation, which may be applied either alone or m combination, are as follows:

    It is likely that US and allied forces will continue to be outnumbered by a wide margin. To defeat Soviet forces, US forces must retain the initiative and prevent Soviet, or Soviet-style, forces from achieving mass, momentum, and continuous land combat. A balanced application of both firepower and maneuver is essential for US forces to achieve these goals. This calls for a synchronization of all fire support to attack critical high-payoff targets across the width and depth of the battlefield.


    The principles of fire support must apply to an ever-increasing number o hostile world situations that extend across the spectrum of conflict from thermonuclear warfare to low-intensity conflicts. The fire support system must be flexible enough to respond to a number of battlefield situations ranging from the nonlinear characteristics of the high- and mid-intensity conflicts to the special demands of low-intensity conflict. Threat nuclear, biological, chemical (NBC) attacks will significantly degrade all aspects of fire support, from target acquisition to delivery. This will be most acutely felt in the loss of accuracy and timeliness of fires.