A Matter of Trust; Close Air Support Apportionment and Allocation for Operational Level Effects
AIR UNIV MAXWELL AFB AL SCHOOL OF ADVANCED AIRPOWER STUDIES
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Doctrinal differences over the employment of airpower are as old as military aviation itself. One particular area of contention has been close air support CAS. The two primary issues related to CAS are its command and control and responsiveness. Soldiers have argued that ground commanders should control their own aircraft, because ownership assures that airpower directly responds to their needs. Airmen have maintained that airpower should be centralized under a single air commander to allow for its flexible theaterwide employment. During World War 2, Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm, ground commanders demanded greater influence over airpower employment. Concurrently, the Air Force disagreed with the Navy and Marine Corps over centralized versus decentralized control of air assets. These two issues of command and control and responsiveness are embodied in the process of apportioning and allocating CAS. In all conflicts since World War 2, the United States has had the luxury of an overabundance of air assets. Despite a facade of centralization, airpower was parceled out to fill nearly everyones needs. This avoided the need for any difficult choices. This study follows the history of CAS since World War 2 to examine how it has been apportioned and allocated in the past. It then examines the current joint air operations process. It is the contention of this study that the current system, rooted in its historical past, does not fully employ CAS to its optimum potential. The historical view of CAS has been as a tactical measure, with limited localized effects. However, properly integrated and coequal with the ground scheme of maneuver, it can have operational level effects. This study examines two theories of the use of CAS at the operational level and then recommends changes to the view of CAS and the process for its apportionment and allocation.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics