Printer Friendly

"Acquisition!" 3d ID counterfire in OIF.

"Acquisition! Acquisition Acquisition!" crackled over the 3d Infantry Division (Mechanized) (3d ID) counterfire net as we bumped along the desert at a high rate of speed near An Nasiriyah. In less than 15 minutes after the division artillery (Div Arty) tactical command post (TAC) came to a halt, Marne Thunder was fighting its first counterfire fight of the war.

The word "Acquisition!" electrified the 3d Div Arty tactical operations center (TOC) every time the alert came across the net during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Enemy artillerymen or mortarmen were targeting American soldiers, and it was the job of the force FA headquarters to defeat that threat immediately. The timely and accurate delivery of fire was paramount: lives were at stake Adherence to the rules of engagement (ROE) was also important: the credibility of the Coalition Forces and the strategic aims of our country were at stake

During OIF, the 3d Div Arty engage in an overwhelmingly successful courterfire effort. In 21 days, we processed more than 1,800 hostile acquisition with no recorded deaths of 3d Division soldiers due to Iraqi mortar, cannon or rocket fire. There were no Law of Land Warfare violations and no reports of fratricide due to counterfire, The 3d Div Arty fired 74 general support (GS) counterfire missions with an estimated battle damage assessment (BDA) of more than 150 enemy artillery systems destroyed and 700 enemy killed in action (KIA). This record speaks for itself.

This article explains what counterfire challenges we faced in terms of our command and control ([C.sup.2]) equipment and organization, training, and ROE considerations. In addition, we outline the 3d Div Arty counterfire battle drill for OIF, including the "vector management" process we devised, and radar zone management. We also discuss the overall performance of the Firefinder radars and recommendations for improving counterfire operations in future combat operations.

Counterfire [C.sup.2] Equipment and Organization. The 3d Div Arty TOC was organized with a TAC as a [C.sup.2] on-the-move platform and the TOC as the traditional static [C.sup.2] node. That allowed us to leapfrog our counterfire capabilities as the division moved rapidly toward Baghdad.

Counterfire in the TAC and TOC. We built the TAC around two rigid-wall shelter (RWS) high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWVs) and a small extension node (SEN) team. Other assets included the target processing section (TPS), a metrological team, an FM retransmission team and security HMMWVs.

The TAC provided the Div Arty a limited [C.sup.2] on-the-move and short-halt capability as the fire control element's (FCE's) advanced FA tactical data system (AFATDS) in the RWS had constant power. The TAC had all the communications capabilities of a traditional TOC, but it was suited only for short-term operations because it relied on standard integrated command post systems (SICPS) or exterior set up.

In the TAC, the TPS did not have an RWS and could not provide constant power for AFATDS. Although we could establish [C.sup.2] of the counterfire fight within 15 minutes, we still could not conduct digital counterfire operations on the move.

We built our TOC around our modified table of organization and equipment (MTOE) M935 expando vans. Although it was an excellent static command post, it could not provide constant power for AFATDS. To decrease the emplacement time, we developed internal tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) for setting up the TOC quickly. We had a detailed set up battle drill for the standard red-amber-green configuration and exterior-mounted OE-254 antenna poles.

One field modification allowed us to mount a spare signal corps nine-meter mast on the expando van' s forward wall. This gave us another extended-range quick-erect antenna.

Between the quick-erect antenna mount (QEAM) antennas on the two RWS and the exterior-mounted OE-254s, we could erect 12 long-range antennas in less than 25 minutes. This corresponded to about the same amount of time it took to boot up the AFATDS computer, so both communications and fire direction capabilities were available almost simultaneously.

Our major challenge was the TPS. Our MTOE only authorizes a single section; we had neither the personnel nor the equipment to man a second TPS. In order to have a TPS in both the TOC and TAC, we built a second section by cross-leveling radios from within the Div Arty and assigned TPS2 a float AFATDS. We staffed TPS2 with the assistant counterfire officer (CFO) from 1st Battalion, 39th Field Artillery (1-39 FA), the 3d Division's multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS) battalion, and divided the NCOs and enlisted soldiers evenly between the two sections, based on the soldiers' experience.

TPS 1 fought from the FCE shelter in the TOC; TPS2 fought from an M998 HMMWV with the TAC. In both cases, the TPS' AFATDS were powered down for movement. This meant that either the TOC or TAC had to be stationary if the Div Arty was to have a continuous digital counterfire capability.

An operational TOC and TAC gave the Div Arty flexibility with its [C.sup.2] options. Neither was optimal, but without a reinforcing brigade to conduct mutually supported unit (MSU) operations, we had no choice in order to maintain a counterfire capability while the division was moving.

Once the 214th FA Brigade from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, was assigned to the 3d Division in a reinforcing role on D-Day+10, we rehearsed and executed MSU operations with the brigade. At that point, we changed our tactics slightly and merged the TAC and TOC. The TAC remained our [C.sup.2] on-the-move and short-halt platform, and upon deliberate occupation, when the TOC was up and operational, the TAC stood down and normal TOC operations resumed.

Counterfire Headquarters. Because we started the war without a reinforcing FA brigade, the 3d Div Arty was the counterfire headquarters throughout OIF. When the 214th FA Leader Brigade joined the division in a reinforcing role, it was a tremendous boost to the 3d Div Arty. The brigade brought 2-4 FA as well as the 2d FA Detachment (FAD) from Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The additional firepower and radar were critical during the next major operation at the Karbala Gap, a significant natural obstacle that required a [C.sup.2] capability on both the near and far sides of the gap.

We decided to keep the counterfire headquarters mission within the Div Arty headquarters for several reasons. First, the counterfire battle drill was successful up to that point, and our TTPs were established. Second, we had not trained with the 214th FA Brigade before hostilities began. Third, we had no idea how long the 214th Brigade would remain reinforcing, and we did not know if V Corps had "strings" attached to the brigade from V Corps. For example, the 214th Brigade retained the V Corps Artillery (VCA) time-sensitive target (TST) mission that required it to keep one battery ready to fire Army tactical missile system (ATACMS) Block IA missiles at all times.

The real combat multiplier brought by the 214th FA Brigade was its brigade-level [C.sup.2] capabilities and its two Q-37 radars in 2 FAD. The additional Q-37s augmented our radar coverage to provide 4,800 mils of radar coverage when set and a degree of continuous radar coverage while on the move.

Automated Deep Operations Coordination System (ADOCS). Because the AFATDS effects management tool (EMT) software was not available for training at either home station or in theater until a few days before we crossed the line of departure (LD) from Kuwait into Iraq, our counterfire system was a combination of AFATDS and ADOCS. ADOCS is advanced concept technology demonstration (ACTD) software that is a suite of tools for visualization and analysis. ADOCS is not standalone software; its information is only as good as the systems it draws from, such as AFATDS. Our battle drill used AFATDS as the fire control and fire direction platform and ADOCS as the primary counterfire analysis tool.

ADOCS allowed us to store the 17,000 targets on the Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC) no-strike list (NSL), and its mapping tool displayed five-meter satellite imagery across the division's 300-kilometer battlespace in a matter of seconds. Additionally, ADOCS could process other global command and control system-Army (GCCS-A) feeds and display friendly maneuver "icons" in conjunction with the all-source analysis system (ASAS) enemy database. It also could display fire support coordinating measures (FSCM) and graphic control measures, to include the USAF kill box grid system.

Finally because VCA used ADOCS as its primary fire support tool, our using ADOCS allowed VCA access to our counterfire common operating picture (COP) in near real-time. This automated our reporting requirements to VCA, thereby freeing man-hours to fight the battle rather than prepare reports.

Counterfire Training. Training the TPS to execute its wartime mission was a challenge because Combat Training Center (CTC) rotations only replicate counterfire at the brigade level and below. The best TPS training opportunities usually are simulated Warfighter exercises or local digital gunnery exercises using training tapes in conjunction with a Q-37. Because the TPS was assigned to the target acquisition battery (TAB) in the divisional MLRS battalion (1-39 FA) and the CFO is assigned to Div Arty headquarters and headquarters battery (HHB), it is difficult for the CFO to build a cohesive team with his section in garrison due to the operational tempo (OPTEMPO).

After arriving in Kuwait, the TPS was moved to the Div Arty TOC and placed under the control of the CFO. We trained the TPS during a three-month period by using a number of cannon and rocket live-fire exercises to allow our radars to acquire targets in the hostile mode. Using a series of FM radio retransmission vehicles and position offsets, we tracked hundreds of live rounds and rockets.

The artillerymen of 1-39 FA Speed in Action did a great job of working with the Div Arty and the TPS to maximize every opportunity to execute the counterfire system from sensor-to-shooter.

ROE Considerations. The ROE played a pivotal role in our counterfire battle drill. Because the Coalition Forces wanted to be seen as liberators and not conquerors, we took steps to minimize collateral damage.

Intelligence reports indicated that the Iraqis most likely would position their artillery in schoolyards and near mosques to maximize collateral damage if we fired on them and gain negative press coverage for the Coalition. Although the Law of Land Warfare legalizes the attack of civilian facilities when used for military purposes, that would mean little to the local populace if we killed a large number of innocent people, such as children or Muslim worshipers, during a "legal" counterfire mission.

Therefore, we cleared and validated every acquisition. Enemy artillery firing in the general direction of Coalition troops did not guarantee a counterfire response; enemy indirect fire that was effective on friendly troops did guarantee an immediate and lethal response.

Because the ROE had the potential to bring our counterfire battle drill to a crawl, we employed two measures to mitigate the risk. First, within seconds of receiving the acquisition, ADOCS displayed the origin and impact grids to five-meter resolution via satellite imagery. This allowed us to assess the validity of the acquisition immediately.

Second, to help the Div Arty commander or $3 determine the legality of engaging certain acquisitions, a Judge Advocate (JA) officer worked in the Div Arty TOC. He was beneficial to the Div Arty in developing ROE. The JA learned the capabilities and complexities of the counterfire radar and used that knowledge to oral) the ROE in language applicable specifically to the artillery fight.

This allowed us to apply the ROE directly and streamlined our counterfire decision-making process. We didn't need to waste time guessing, interpreting or getting a case-by-case opinion to apply the ROE.

Counterfire Battle Drill. After receiving a digital artillery target intelligence: coordinates report (ATI:CDR) message from the Q-37 in both the TPS AFATDS and the CFO ADOCS, the process began on two parallel tracks. (See the figure.) The CFO processed the vector immediately to apply vector logic and classify the type of acquisition. If it was a valid artillery or rocket acquisition, we immediately checked ADOCS to see if the impact location was in proximity to friendly icons from the GCCS-A feed and identified who was responsible for clearing the battlespace.


Simultaneously, the FCE received the mission from the TPS. The FCE begat checking the acquisition location against all known FSCM and made an initial assessment of the general range-to-target from known unit locations. If the target was obviously out of range, the FCE announced the target number to alert the CFO that it required assets not organic to the Div Arty, i.e., close air support (CAS). If the target was still possibly valid, the counterfire battle drill continued.

If the acquisition appeared to be valid or if the impact was in proximity to friendlies, the Div Arty $3 directed the FCE to send the mission to 1-39 FA in an "At My Command" status.

While these steps were continuing the Div Arty $2 assessed and classified the type of system based on the range and enemy set. The CFO then looked a the ADOCS five-meter satellite computer imagery to examine the origin location against the NSL and terrain This process normally took less that two minutes.

Once complete, we contacted the brigade FSO responsible for the target grid to have him initiate the clearance process. If we could use MLRS against the acquisition, we simultaneously contacted the assistant fire support coordinator (AFSCOORD) in the division TAC (DTAC) to clear the airspace of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft along or on the launcher-target line.

We also checked the acquisition against the current coordinated fire line (CFL). We consciously cleared acquisitions that were beyond the CFL through the DTAC as well because of the many Special Operations Forces (SOF) forward of the division's maneuver brigades.

If a valid acquisition emanated from inside a town or urban area, we sent the acquisition to the brigade FSE or directly to the direct support (DS) battalion to service with cannon artillery. If it was out of range, we sent it to the DTAC AFSCOORD for prosecution with CAS.

By the time the target grid was cleared the mission was already down to the rocket battalion, normally on the launcher. Once the target was cleared either the Div Arty commander or S3 gave the order to fire the mission. The average counterfire mission took six minutes and 37 seconds from acquire to fire.

Steps in Vector Logic. Based on more than 6,000 radar acquisitions that the division processed during its Kosovo rotation, we knew that not every acquisition is valid. We learned that the Q-37 can process acquisitions accurately in the hostile mode, incoming and often outgoing acquisitions. Small-arms fire, helicopter rotor blades or even vehicular movement are enough to generate a return. To separate the "wheat from the chaff," we developed "vector logic" to validate individual acquisitions.

First, we analyzed each red (enemy) vector for range and direction. Was the aspect angle and range consistent with known enemy dispositions and capabilities? Was it a lone acquisition or part of a pattern of multiple hits? If it was a lone acquisition, we waited for a second one to classify it as a multiple hit. We did not attack single acquisitions.

Once classified as a multiple hit, the process continued. We again confirmed the vectors for consistency with respect to range and direction. Did the vectors match the tactical situation and known locations of friendly and enemy forces?

A helicopter's rotor blades can produce multiple acquisitions, but when analyzed, they appear as parallel vectors that are evenly spaced perpendicular to the aircraft's flight path. In the case of anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire, the vectors appear as a starburst with similar range vectors emanating from a central point that are almost always in a 1,600-rail pattern.

One of the non-doctrinal applications of our vector logic was our ability to pass information on targets down to maneuver brigade fire support officers (FSOs) for attack by directfire systems. In one case, we passed the locations of AAA systems on Baghdad International Airport for maneuver to engage with direct fire. This was extremely important in building suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) and preparatory fire plans.

The important point of this discussion is that every acquisition, whether valid or not, helps the CFO build the counterfire COP and improves the counterfire headquarters' situational understanding of the entire battle. It also helps the $2 build his intelligence picture of the battlefield and contributes directly to the targeting effort.

Radar Zone Management. During OIF, the 3d Div Arty did not use radar zones in the traditional maturer. Because every acquisition vector required clearance by satellite imagery, we needed both the impact and origin grids provided by the ATI:CDR message format. The Priority 1 fire mission: call-for-fire (FM:CFF) message generated by a critical friendly zone (CFZ) violation does not include the impact grid--the CFO needed both the impact and origin to execute the battle drill.

To guarantee the intent of the CFZ, we placed graphical depictions of CFZs in ADOCS. If the vector violated any zone, we immediately prosecuted that acquisition first. The standard battle drill |or any CFZ violation was similar to any normal acquisition, except that the CFO called the brigade FSO and asked if his maneuver traits were reporting incoming artillery. This step also provided a good secondary check for the validity of any acquisition. In OIF, if maneuver units were receiving enemy artillery or mortar fire, it was reported immediately on both command and fire support radio nets.

Call-for-Fire Zones (CFFZs) and Artillery Target Intelligence Zones (ATIZs). Similarly, CFFZs and ATIZs were not used. In an environment where it is possible to become overwhelmed by an extraordinary volume of enemy artillery fire, these zones are important. However, after the S2's intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) and our military decision-making process (MDMP), we easily managed the fight on an acquisition-by-acquisition basis.

There were times during the conflict that we did encounter large volumes of fire. Using our ROE-based counterfire drill and ADOCS, we confirmed the enemy firing unit's disposition on satellite imagery and selected the most centrally located target. We announced the target number to prosecute and continued the process from there.

Censor Zones (CZs). These are input at the radar and essentially mask all fires emanating from that area. The purpose is to allow friendly artillery and mortars to shoot from a location and not appear as hostile acquisitions. During OIF, we planned many CZs but found it difficult to activate and deactivate them in a fluid, fast-paced environment.

In one instance, 1-10 FA was unable to complete its move to a position area for artillery (PAA) due to the tactical situation. The Div Arty was out of communications with the battalion and did not know the battalion had stopped to shoot an emergency mission. 1-10 FA was not covered by a CZ, and we acquired its howitzers as hostile. Positive clearance procedures, however, prevented us from engaging 1-10 FA inadvertently.

Despite using CZs, one cannot engage apparent hostile acquisitions without positive clearance.

Location Averaging and Auto Censoring. Q-37 radars have the means to reduce large volumes of acquisitions by using location averaging and auto censoring; these are useful tools when there is a threat of being overwhelmed by acquisitions. However, these tools an dangerous when nearly every enemy artillery system is chemically capable--a high volume of acquisitions impacting in a similar area is the prime indicator of a chemical strike.

In at least one case, the enemy fired from the same location we previously engaged. We were not sure if we missed the first time or if he re-manned the guns. If the auto-censoring function had been employed, we might not have caught the enemy the second time.

For these reasons, we did not use the location averaging or auto censoring options in the radars.

Common Sensor Boundaries (CSBs). One tool used to diminish target duplication and unnecessary ammunition expenditure is a CSB. This is a valid tool if the CFO has visibility on both the Q-36 and Q-37 counterfire picture. Unfortunately, as a division we did not generate a combine counterfire COP because of the extended distances involved and the range limitations of the FM radio. Had we used a CSB, we might have ignored enemy acquisitions emanating from a brigade zone without confirmation of whether or not the DS battalion's Q-36 acquired it.

During OIF, the enemy indirect systems were widely dispersed and rarely in templated locations. For example, Q-36 oriented 0300 may miss a valid hostile acquisition originating from 4800, but a Q-37 located behind the Q-36 could easily pick it up because of its longer range and wider range fan.

Our solution was to pass Div Arty targets acquired in brigade areas to the appropriate brigade FSE. The brigade FSO normally cleared the mission and requested immediate Div Arty engagement.

Q-36 and Q-37 Performance. When the radars were fully mission-capable (FMC), they were brilliant. The Q-37s enjoyed improved cross-country trafficability. Never once were the radars out of position or unable to occupy because of mobility issues. Their performance was exceptional, and the ability to acquire the enemy indirect systems was unmatched.

Keeping the radars operational, however, was difficult. We started the war with two Q-36s and one Q-37 FMC. The essential repair parts stockage list (ERPSL) was inadequate for extended combat operations. Even when the card or part we needed was present, there was no guarantee it was serviceable Both Q-37s were not mission-capable (NMC) at one time or another.

Only the resourcefulness and experience of the crews and mechanics, who often resorted to non-doctrinal repair techniques, guaranteed the operation status of our radars.

Recommendations. In retrospect, we recommend several changes to facilitate future counterfire operations.

First, assign the TPS to HHB, Div Arty rather than to the TAB in the MLRS battalion. This will facilitate the training and cohesiveness of the section.

Second, the heavy Div Arty needs one additional Q-36 and two additional Q-37 radars. The operational readiness rates and operational maneuver require more radar coverage than two Q-37s can provide for a heavy mechanized division. An additional Q-36 will provide a redundant capability for DS battalions and the divisional cavalry squadron when it is committed.

Third, the heavy Div Arty needs a [C.sup.2] platform for on the move and short halts, especially to process counterfire missions. The ability to process and prosecute a digital counterfire fight on the move will increase the flexibility and lethality of the heavy Div Arty.

Fourth, units should only use CAS for counterfire when the acquisition is beyond artillery range or there are collateral damage concerns.

Of the many lessons during OIF, we learned that artillery in the counterfire role is the best killer of enemy artillery. With few exceptions, CAS was ineffective for counterfire. The most significant factor keeping CAS from being a more effective counterfire asset is that the USAF does not consider Q-36/Q-37 radar acquisitions as a source of positive identification (PID). Even when CAS was on station, it took time for pilots to acquire the target. Operations at night and during inclement weather further complicated positive visual acquisition problems.

Finally, to make the most of joint fires assets in future operations, we recommend joint fires guidelines specify that counterfire radar acquisitions meet the PID requirement in the USAF special instructions (SPINS).

Conclusion. The 3d Infantry Div Arty takes pride in the fact that no Marne soldiers were lost to enemy indirect fire. Division-level counterfire operations were not the Div Arty's only task but clearly our most important. We used every asset available and applied non-doctrinal concepts when necessary to achieve the desired results.

One tank company commander summarized the effectiveness of the 3d Division's counterfire effort when he said, "I don't know what a Q-37 radar is, but whatever you guys are doing, keep doing it!" Marne Thunder!

Warrant Officer Three Brian L. Borer, until recently, was the Counterfire Officer (CFO) for the 3d Infantry Division (Mechanized), Fort Stewart, Georgia, and deployed with the division in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Currently, he is an Instructor in the 131A Warrant Officer Basic and Advanced Courses at the Field Artillery School, Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He also was the CFO/Targeting Officer in the 3d Division as part of Task Force Falcon in Kosovo during Kosovo Forces (KFOR), Rotation 3A. His previous experience includes serving twice as a Brigade Targeting Officer while assigned to the 2d Battalion, 17th Field Artillery, part of the 2d Infantry Division in Korea, and the 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, 3d Infantry Division. He was a Q-36 and Q-37 Radar Technician with the 3d Infantry Division, deploying for two rotations to the National Training Center (NTC), Fort Irwin, California, and two to Kuwait for Operation Intrinsic Action.

Lieutenant Colonel Noel T. Nicolle is the 3d Infantry Division Deputy Fire Support Coordinator (DFSCOORD) and, until recently, the Division Artillery $3, deployed for OIF. Previous assignments include serving as the Fire Support Officer (FSO) for 3d Brigade and S3 for 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery, both in the 3d Infantry Division; Small Group Instructor at the Field Artillery Captain's Career Course at the Field Artillery School, Fort Sill; and an Observer/ Controller for the Mechanized Task Force Trainers and Fire Support Trainers at the NTC. He commanded B Battery, 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery (Multiple-Launch Rocket System), 41st Field Artillery Brigade in Germany. He holds an MA in History from Louisiana State University.
COPYRIGHT 2003 U.S. Field Artillery Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 Reader Opinion




Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Nicolle, Noel T.
Publication:FA Journal
Date:Sep 1, 2003
Previous Article:82d Airborne Artillery in the battle of As Samawah.
Next Article:Force protection for Baghdad International Airport.

Related Articles
Counterfire for the IBCT.
Overview: field artillery in operation Iraqi freedom.
The sound of thunder: VCA in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
2003 Gruber Award winner: SFC Glen R. Washington, FCNCO, 3d ID.
2d Infantry Division Artillery.
3d Infantry Division (Mechanized) Artillery.
82d Airborne Division Artillery.
14th Marine Regiment.
1-5 FA in OIF II: maintaining FA competencies while deployed.
Fires brigade TAB: expanded and unique missions in OIF.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2014 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters