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Research Questions

  1. How is the Army's portion of the Global Response Force going to get where it needs to go?
  2. What needs to be done to enable GRF operations, in terms of concept development, planning, and exercises?

The Global Response Force (GRF) is built for rapid response to unforeseen or, more specifically, unplanned operations. Selected Army airborne forces provide a large portion of the GRF and are dependent on joint concepts for deployment and access. This study illustrates a method for determining the best access strategies given constraints in aircraft, intermediate staging bases, operational capabilities, and other factors. The study applies this method to each geographic combatant command and develops specific, tailored strategies for each.

The access strategies are built from multiple analytic techniques: historical aircraft data and platform specifications to determine capabilities and limitations of the air fleet; several airfield databases, site reports, and expert judgments to determine probable intermediate staging base locations and their likely capabilities; multiple deployment concepts for access to minimize operational risks; and detailed geographic and operational analysis to determine global coverage and reach. In the end, we were able to deduce a preferred strategy for each of the combatant commands.

Global access for the GRF is provided partially through the use of well-established staging bases but will necessarily rely on austere basing and complex deployment concepts for particular locations in multiple combatant commands. The study concludes with several recommendations to close those risks, which span the services, combatant commands, and joint staff.

Key Findings

In addition to its intended use as a rapid response capability, the Army's portion of the GRF has a role on longer time lines.

Multiple, complex deployment concepts are necessary to ensure global coverage.

  • Airborne insertion of early-entry forces can arrive from great distances on various types of lift.

The GRF needs use of intermediate staging bases to ensure global coverage for their missions.

  • Accessing austere bases with limited infrastructure will be necessary for global coverage.

Force packaging and initial- and follow-on force flows drive aircraft demands and ISB selection.

  • There is wide-variation in sizes of the forces, depending on multiple factors.
  • GRF requirement for strategic lift can be reasonable, given the availability of aircraft.
  • Mustering airdrop-qualified crews does not seem to be a problem.

Plans, planning, exercises, and site preparation are rarely applied to GRF operations.

  • Realistic exercises, and habitual planning, are key to validating the GRF's capabilities.


The multiple, complex deployment concepts should be codified in joint and service doctrine and multi-service TTPs.

  • While direct access should be maintained in select CCMDs, staging should play a bigger role in capabilities development for the GRF.
  • Concepts should include alternate deployment methods for all or portions of the GRF and supporting forces, such as using alternative air or sealift options.
  • Concepts should include more variety of missions — including being used as a flexible deterrent, support of WMD elimination.
  • Follow-on forces and flows should be better defined.

Deployment concepts should be validated for readiness through plans, planning, and exercises.

  • Joint plans for GRF employment should be created to identify requirements.
  • Plans should incorporate basing clusters as necessary, and how services plan to operate at disparate sites.
  • Planning should occur to ensure shared knowledge of requirements for GRF employment.
  • ISB choices should be updated regularly to determine investments in infrastructure for developing the most austere basing.
  • Exercises should begin with more-developed CCMDs.
  • Site preparation of ISBs should ensue pending plans, planning, and other factors.

Tailoring force packages, for both initial-entry and follow-on forces, should be done to meet demands of the environment and limitations in Joint assets (like strategic lift).

A joint letter between Army and Air Force should lay to rest an ongoing perception of constraints in airdrop-crew availability for airborne operations.

Research conducted by

This research was sponsored by the Army's 82nd Airborne Division and conducted by the Force Development and Technology program within the RAND Arroyo Center.

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