Cover: Future Ground Commanders' Close Support Needs and Desirable System Characteristics

Future Ground Commanders' Close Support Needs and Desirable System Characteristics

Published Apr 29, 2002

by Bruce W. Don, Thomas J. Herbert, Jerry M. Sollinger


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The fundamental importance of close support (augmenting firepower to support engaged ground forces) has been understood for decades, but Desert Storm and more recent operations have raised questions about whether the demand for close support has changed or even disappeared. Changed demand might, in turn, require new or different capabilities. To explore these questions, the authors developed detailed combat vignettes to illustrate situations in which close support could be critical, defined success criteria, then simulated the effects of varying types and levels of close support. The results suggest that there are situations in which close support may not be helpful (most notably, in an ambush) but that it may be crucial in others (such as a prepared defense by light forces). While timing can be important, other important matters are matching the damage patterns of weapons to target dimensions; choosing appropriate types and capabilities of weapons for the situation, with terminally guided submunitions having special potential value; and taking advantage of all available sensor and targeting systems, unmanned aerial vehicles in particular.

The research described in this report was performed under the auspices of RAND's National Security Research Division.

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