Nov 25, 2005
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Recent operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have reawakened interest in the close air support (CAS) mission and have led to new efforts to improve the integration of air power and land power. The Army increasingly views air power as indispensable to its future warfighting concepts; the Air Force acknowledges the increasing importance of counterland operations but wants to ensure that air power’s unique flexibility and versatility are not lost in efforts to provide on-call fires to ground forces. Whether air power or land power should predominate depends on the situation. In particular situations, either might predominate, and their relationship is likely to shift over the course of a campaign. This report examines alternative approaches to integrating air and land power, addressing three major policy questions: (1) How should air attack and ground maneuver be integrated? (2) How should the terminal attack control function be executed? (3) How should ground maneuver/fires and air attack be deconflicted? The study recommends that the Army and the Air Force work together to develop new concepts and technologies to enhance the effective partnering of air and ground forces. New processes are needed to effectively designate targets while ensuring that essential oversight remains with the terminal air controller, and improved control mechanisms should be developed to exploit the benefits of the digital battlefield. As adversaries adapt and move away from massed motorized forces operating in the open to dispersed, smaller forces exploiting difficult terrain, a well practiced and developed air-ground partnership will be increasingly necessary.