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The JFA: redefining the kill box.

Since Operation Desert Storm, the US military has used "kill boxes" to coordinate joint fires from different Services to destroy enemy targets while ensuring the safety of friendly forces. The military still employs kill boxes on the modern battlefield, including during initial operations in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Coordinating joint fires is a complex process that needs standard tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) all of the armed forces understand and follow.

Developing the TTP. Through practice and lessons learned in combat, kill boxes have evolved from a "good idea" to a practical application on the battlefield. To standardize kill box procedures, the Air Land Sea Application (ALSA) Center at Langley Air Force Base (AFB), Virginia, published a multiservice TTP (MTTP) (1) on the employment of the kill box.

ALSA's Kill Box MTTP is published, but it is not doctrine. At press time, this is the only published kill box TTP available for use. Though it has not been approved yet, the Joint Fires Coordination Measures (JFCM) Joint Test and Evaluation (JTE), at Nellis AFB, Nevada, has provided a way ahead for this document to become part of joint doctrine through the creation of the Joint Fires Area (JFA) TTP.

Testing the JFA TTP. The Office of the Secretary of Defense chartered the JFCM JTE to develop, test and evaluate new TTPs and make recommendations to improve the effectiveness of kill boxes by standardizing operational TTPs.

The specific test issues are 1) To what extent do JFCM-developed joint TTP command and control ([C.SUP.2]) processes to plan and implement kill boxes as fires support coordinating measures (FSCMs) enable the joint forces commander to integrate fires with maneuver? and 2) To what extent do current and near-term [C.SUP.2] systems enable the joint forces commander to integrate fires with maneuver, in accordance with JFCM-developed joint TTP [C.SUP.2] processes, when planning and implementing kill boxes as FSCMs?

The JFCM first sought to align the term "kill box" doctrinally with other FSCM naming conventions and redefined it as a JFA. In other words it aligns with other FSCMs such as no-fire area (NFA) and free-fire area (FFA), and it supports the military decision-making process and targeting process.

The JFCM has developed one set of TTP for the JFA based on data gathered through a series of test events. The test schedule consisted of two rehearsal-of-concept drill events, two minitests, a risk-reduction event and the capstone field test, Talisman Saber 07.

The field test was completed in July 2007, and JFCM currently is completing the analysis of the data and will use that data to finalize the JFA TTP, submitting it to ALSA for an update to the MTTP. The validated JFA TTP will be submitted to Joint Forces Command for inclusion in JP 3-09 Doctrine for Joint Fire Support. (2) If approved, the JFA concept will become doctrine when it is integrated into JP 3-09.

The final product that JFCM produces will benefit the warfighter in several ways. First, warfighters will have a TTP that defines JFA procedures and how to integrate fires at the operational and tactical levels. Second, standardized JFA procedures will have a direct impact on Service training and joint exercises. Third, [C.SUP.2] procedures will be leveraged to increase the visualization of the operational area. Finally, as an FSCM, the JFA will increase the effectiveness of fires, decrease the amount of coordination and reduce the risk to friendly forces.

Based on the information gathered, the JFCM defined the JFA and developed several core TTPs that further illustrate the specific characteristics of a JFA. The following sections of this article discuss the definition of a JFA, its core TTP, its two attributes, and how to name, locate and establish a JFA.

Defining a JFA. A JFA is a three-dimensional (3-D) FSCM used by the joint forces commander and his component commanders to facilitate engaging targets with fires without additional coordination (all coordination is complete before establishment). The two attributes of an FSCM are location and time. As a 3-D FSCM, the JFA location is comprised of an effects area and airspace. The effects area and airspace must be defined concurrently to build a JFA in collaborative, fire support and [C.SUP.2] systems. Defining these attributes concurrently facilitates component coordination, deconfliction and integration.

The joint forces commander may standardize joint attributes depending on the operational environment. The attributes discussed in this article define a JFA and set the conditions for effectiveness and efficiency while reducing the risk to friendly forces. Two key aspects to this definition are critical to understanding what constitutes a JFA. First, it is permissive in the sense that a JFA allows the engagement of targets, and it is an FSCM--meaning that it is a part of a deliberate joint targeting process. The second critical aspect of this definition is that a JFA supports the joint forces commander by enabling his component commanders to accomplish his objectives.

For example, during Phase II operations (Seize the Initiative), the joint force air component commander (JFACC) is normally the supported commander for the joint forces commander's theater-wide air-interdiction campaign across the entire operational area. Normally this interdiction campaign begins before the introduction of land forces into the theater, and the JFACC is the establishing authority for all JFAs over land, unless included in a maritime area of operations (AO). Once ground forces are introduced, land AOs take effect and the supported land component becomes the establishing commander. Outside these AOs, the JFACC normally remains the establishing commander until ground forces occupy the entire operational area or the conflict enters Phase IV (Stability). (3)

Core TTPs. Three core TTPs complement the JFA definition and expand on the JFA's purpose and use. These TTPs are integral to understanding what a JFA does and how the JFA's proper use can be a combat multiplier.

1. The JFA's purpose is to increase the ability of the joint forces commander, component commander and/or joint task force commander to integrate fires and achieve effects in support of a ground component's scheme of maneuver and joint forces commander's campaign plan.

2. The joint forces commander sets theater conditions to enable the effective employment of a JFA. The joint forces commander directs the use of a reference system and may delegate JFA establishing authority. For example, the joint forces commander may delegate authority to establish the JFA short of the forward boundary and in nonlinear battlespace to the supported commander; to the air component long of the forward boundary; to the maritime component over water; and to the special operations component in a joint special operations area.


3. To plan and establish a JFA, both attributes must be defined. The attributes may be tailored and usually start with joint defaults to make planning more efficient.

JFA Attributes. Figure 1 is an example of a 3-D JFA with the effects area, airspace and time noted.

Effects area is the area on the surface or subsurface that extends to the floor of the airspace where weapons effects are desired and permitted. The location of the effects area is defined at the keypad level by the establishing commander using the joint forces commander's directed area reference system (i.e., Global Area Reference System or GARS). The JFA's minimum size could be a single keypad (5-minutes x 5-minutes), constructed of multiple, adjoining keypads or the entire cell (30-minutes x 30-minutes). The effects area can be adjusted smaller than the airspace to reduce the risk to friendly forces.

Airspace is an area above the effects area in which maneuvering aircraft delivering air-to-surface fires into the effects area are protected. The airspace location is defined using the joint forces commander's designated area reference system (i.e., GARS). The associated airspace normally would be constructed at the cell level by the airspace coordination authority and could include multiple, adjoining cells or be designated at the keypad level. The parameters of the airspace are defined to enable safe and effective delivery of air-to-surface fires while providing a reasonable degree of protection from surface-to-surface indirect fires, surface-to-air fires and other aircraft.

Time is the period that the JFA is to be in effect. JFAs are "planned," "in effect" or "cancelled." JFAs will be opened or closed to fires or effects based upon time or an event trigger.

JFA Naming Convention. Once a JFA is built, the user must make it distinguishable from other FSCMs to avoid confusion. All JFAs are aligned with the joint FSCM naming convention. The four basic parts of a named JFA are: 1) the label of "JF," which tells the user that it is a JFA; 2) a number that tells the user the order in which a particular JFA was established; 3) the name of the establishing command that has responsibility for that JFA; and 4) the effective time, which shows when the JFA will be in effect. For example, the JFA in Figures 1 and 3 is named "JF001 III MEF 221000ZJUN06221400ZJUN06."

Locating the JFA: GARS. Because all components use JFAs, it is imperative that the Services have a common area reference system to locate where a JFA exists on the battlefield. The system approved by the Department of Defense is GARS. (4)

GARS uses lines of longitude and latitude as its base and allows for joint force situational awareness (SA) to facilitate air-to-ground attack coordination, deconfliction, integration and synchronization. GARS ensures a common language among the Services and is used as a battlespace management tool as opposed to targeting or navigation.

The basic GARS design divides the globe into 30-minute by 30-minute cells. Each cell is given a five-character designation. For example, the cell is defined as "006AG" in Figures 1 and 2. The first three characters "006" indicate a 30-minute wide longitudinal band. Starting at the 180-degree meridian and moving eastward, the bands are numbered from "001" to "720."

The next two characters "AG" indicate a 30-minute wide latitudinal band. Starting from the South Pole and moving northward, the bands are lettered from "AA" to "QZ" (omitting "I" and "O").

Each 30-minute by 30-minute cell is divided into four 15-minute by 15-minute quadrants. These quadrants are sequential, numbered from west to east, starting with the northernmost band. The northwest quadrant is number "1," the northeast quadrant is number "2," the southwest quadrant is number "3," and the southeast quadrant is number "4." The quadrants are designated using a six-character nomenclature. The first five characters of "006AG4" are the cell designation, and the sixth character "4" identifies the quadrant number.


Each 15-minute by 15-minute quadrant is divided into nine 5-minute by 5-minute areas. These nine squares are numbered in the same order as the numbers displayed on a telephone keypad, and thus are called keypads. The first six characters of "006AG45" name the quadrant, while the seventh character "5" is the keypad number.

To find a particular effects area using GARS the user first must read right (along the numbers) and then read up (to get to the desired letter designation). In Figure 2, the point of origin is in the bottom left-hand corner of the grid. The numbers along the base of the grid show the east-west axis, while the letters rising from "AA" to "AH" demonstrate the north-south axis. In the example shown, to find effects area "006AG45," the user first would look right across the grid to the numbers "006", and then look up to find the letters "AG" to find the cell "006AG." To find the quadrant, the user would break cell "006AG" into four quadrants, with quadrant "4" located in the southeast corner. To find the keypad the user breaks down quadrant "4" into nine keypads, with the number "5" being in the middle of the keypads.

Using GARS helps avoid confusion between the land, air and maritime components. It also enables the attack of targets and increases accurate communications and synchronization throughout the joint operations area and provides proper SA, reducing the risk to friendly forces.

Establishing the JFA. The supported component commander establishes and adjusts JFAs in consultation with supported, supporting, subordinate and affected commanders. JFA establishment authority is an extension of the existing support relationships established by the joint forces commander.

A JFA is established by the component commander having jurisdiction over an assigned operational area or area of responsibility (Air Component) as delegated by the joint forces commander. The establishing commander coordinates JFA airspace with the airspace control authority. The joint forces commander, in conjunction with the JFACC, makes the final determination for airspace in the event of a dispute over airspace between the JFA establishing commander and the airspace control authority. Requests for cross-component support are adjudicated by the first common commander where cross-component coordination can be affected.

A JFA is established when the establishing commander confirms the JFA attributes have been defined through coordination, deconfliction and integration and disseminates the confirmation to all affected commanders. As a permissive FSCM, after all coordination is complete, the JFA permits the delivery of air-to-surface fires, surface-to-surface indirect fires, and maritime fires and effects without additional coordination with the establishing commander.

Aircraft and the trajectories of air-to-surface and surface-to-surface fires not in support of the JFA are not permitted to pass through the JFA without coordination with the establishing commander. Key to a JFA's establishment is the deliberate planning process, which is part of the joint targeting process.

Planners can execute a hasty planning process to expedite the formation of a JFA if there is a heightened sense of urgency. A JFA can be scheduled (where it is triggered by a time) or on-order (where it will be triggered by an event). It is important that planners keep the joint forces commander's objectives, intent, scheme of maneuver, guidance on FSCMs and the rules of engagement (ROE) in mind when planning a JFA.

Component commanders are authorized to establish JFAs to support their individual schemes of maneuver and fire support plans, while at the same time supporting the joint forces commander's objectives and overall campaign plan. These commanders are the JFACC, joint force land component commander (JFLCC), joint force maritime component commander (JFMCC) and the joint force special operations component commander (JFSOCC). Once a commander establishes a JFA, planners publish the JFA in an order so that all agencies have proper SA.

Considerations. JFAs support the commander's objectives and concept of operations. As such, all target engagements within a JFA must adhere to the establishing commander's designated target priorities, effects and timing of fires.

Published Orders. The ROE, collateral damage estimation restrictions and special instructions remain applicable to operations conducted within JFAs.

Friendly Forces. Once the commander establishes a JFA, forces will not maneuver within or enter into a JFA effects area during effective times. The JFA may contain other FSCMs within its boundaries. A JFA will not supersede any restrictive FSCM located within its boundaries. If circumstances require protection of a friendly force (i.e., Special Operations Forces teams, reconnaissance patrols or littoral operations) within a JFA, then a restrictive FSCM will be used.

JFAs can facilitate the integration of joint assets for interdiction of maritime threats.

It is recommended that the portion(s) of the JFA where close air support (CAS) is being conducted be closed during the CAS operations. The establishing headquarters approves CAS within the JFA on a mission-by-mission basis, and there are no restrictions to ground forces employing direct fire weapons.


When the establishing commander publishes a JFA, it will be disseminated throughout a variety of systems where operators can identify the FSCM visually. There are two methods to denote a JFA graphically as shown in Figure 3. One method has the quadrants turned on with the keypads turned off, while the other presents the quadrants turned off with all 36 keypads of the JFA turned on.

Note that the entire cell contains the airspace for the JFA, and vertical lines represent the effects area. Other FSCMs, such as NFAs, also can be represented graphically to increase the user's SA, such as an NFA within the effects area in quadrant "4."

JFA Tenets. JFAs have several tenets that answer frequently asked questions and outline some basic premises of the JFA. They are: a JFA is an FSCM, not a reference system; a JFA is planned to support fires and maneuver; JFAs facilitate air interdiction regardless of location in the operational area; weapons release may occur outside the confines of the JFA where effects are intended; direct fires are not restricted by the JFA's establishment; and CAS may be conducted within a JFA with specific considerations.

The JFA is an important aspect of the combined arms and joint component fight on the modern battlefield. By understanding a JFA, the Services can deliver timely and accurate fires on the enemy while simultaneously ensuring the safety of friendly forces. If the joint Services approve the JFA TTP, all Services will have a common operating picture and a way ahead for training. Arriving on the next joint battlefield with this common understanding will enable warfighters to take the fight to the enemy efficiently and effectively and save the lives of the most valuable asset, the warfighter.

Author's Note: The author would like to thank LTC (Retired) Robert D. Hill for his assistance in revising and improving this article.


(1.) Air Land Sea Application Center, Field Manual 3-09.34 Multi-Service Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (MTTPs) for Kill Box Employment, (Langley AFB, VA: 2005). The Marine Corps' version of this TTP is MCRP 3-25H; The Navy's version is NTTP 3-09.2.1; and the Air Force's version is AFFTTP (1) 3-2.59.

(2.) Joint Forces Command, Joint Publication (JP) 3-09 Joint Fire Support, (Washington, DC: November 2006).

(3.) Joint Forces Command, JP 3-0 Joint Operations, (Washington, DC: September 2006).

(4.) National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, Global Area Reference System, 2006, available at GandG/coordsys/grids/gars.html#zz.

By Major James E. Mullin III, AR

Major James E. Mullin III, Armor (AR), is the Joint Test Operations Officer and Army Subject Matter Expert (SME) for the Joint Electronic Protection for Air Combat, Joint Test and Evaluation (JTE), located at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. He was the Army SME for the Joint Fires Coordination Measures, JTE, until that test concluded. He served as Commander, F Detachment and Battalion S-3 for 3rd Battalion, 357th Infantry (3-357 IN) (Training Support or TS), 4-91 Division (TS), Tigard, Oregon; Commander, B and D Companies, S-3 and S-3 Air for 1-67 AR, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division (ID), Fort Hood, Texas, deploying to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom; and a Platoon Leader, C Company Executive Officer and Battalion Liaison Officer for 1-77 AR, 2nd Brigade, 1st ID, at Schweinfurt, Germany, deploying to Kosovo.
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Author:Mullin, James E., III
Date:Mar 1, 2008
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