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Integrating Army Aviation into the Combined Arms Team: Operational Art in Desert Shield and Desert Storm

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Technical Report

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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The challenge of balancing the employment of aviation assets between their tactical utility and their employment in accordance with the elements of operational art has existed from the earliest days of the helicopter. Discussion and debate about the role of rotary-wing assets, particularly as part of the combined arms team, has characterized the relatively short history of Army aviation. In the past thirteen years, corps and division commanders and their staffs have had little opportunity to employ rotary-wing aviation in the application of operational art through the full range of decisive action in combat. The US Army has primarily employed Army aviation as a tactical asset, with limited consideration for its ability to achieve strategic objectives in accordance with the elements of operational art, thereby limiting the contributions of rotary-wing aircraft to the combined arms team. The story of Army aviation leading up to Desert Shield and Desert Storm is about the development of an emerging alignment between new doctrine, the ideal organization, and what would eventually become a branch. The framework for the historical case study is the doctrinal relationship between the elements of operational art and the doctrinal missions of rotary-wing aviation. The framework enables an expanded understanding of how helicopters are employed in accordance with the elements of operational art as a member of the combined arms team. Most of the elements of operational art were apparent in the case study, and were enabled, either directly or indirectly, by rotary-wing aviation. This case study illuminated the relationship between basing, operational reach, tempo, and culmination, and more specifically, their relationship to the capabilities of Army aviation.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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