The inspiration for this article came after observations of multiple Field Artillery and Aviation units during numerous warfighter exercises. These units engaged a near peer threat in the Decisive Action Training Environment (DATE). Fire support units are no longer focused on precision engagements against a small group of enemy personnel. Now, in the context of a near peer threat, fire support has expanded expectations to target large formations of enemy equipment, enemy integrated air defense systems and other targets chosen by the division leadership. Each exercise successfully trains unit staffs in a positive learning environment. This training results in new awareness, and development of new processes for employment of fire support and combat aviation, and the importance of good, targetable intelligence. This article will discuss three main topics, a recommendation for how to build a purpose built cell at division to plan and coordinate deep and shaping operations including part of the division artillery (DIVARTY), how to improve collection management tied to the intelligence required for the targeting process and the need to synchronize effects.
With advances in technology and capabilities, the expectation and need for a division to routinely conduct deep operations has returned. When exercises use the DATE, three themes became clear, both positive and negative. First, it was critical that the headquarters for the DIVARTY and Field Artillery brigades (FAB) be closely tied to the planning of division shaping and deep operations. Second, information collection remained an area that needed attention because it became easily disconnected from the deep fight. Third, on the positive side, the Army Battle Command System (ABCS) architecture, while a work in progress due to constant updates, displayed both impressive capabilities and at times provided significant results for the units.
The best technique observed by the observer coach/trainers (OC/T) was one FAB requested a dedicated Distributed Common Ground System-Army (DCGS-A) civilian subject matter expert present during the exercise who mentored the unit to fully leverage all of Distributed Common Ground System’s capabilities. The efficiencies gained by the unit resulted in refined predictive analysis and timely effects on large formations of enemy combat power. One successful tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) the OC/T observed was when a FAB headquarters linked their DCGSA to the Command Post of the Future (CPOF) enabling a shared S-2 enemy situational template in the command post (CP). They also leveraged the Tactical Entities Database (TED) through their DCGS which filtered hundreds of reports and located relevant reporting on a map for planning. This was a first for both actions that I observed which greatly improved their predictive analysis during a warfighter exercise.
As I considered a concept to enable the division staff and DIVARTY to plan and execute shaping operations or deep operations before the enemy entered the close fight, the term deep operations coordination cell (DOCC) kept coming up in discussions. The subordinate units in each division are taking heavy casualties from large enemy formations because divisions are not effectively planning, executing or supervising shaping operations. The joint air ground integration cell (JAGIC) has some of these capabilities to shape, such as integrating division Fires with other complementary and reinforcing functions for achieving air ground integration, according to FM 3-94, Army Theater, Corps, and Division Operations. However, in FM 3-94 the JAGIC lacks a planning role since it falls within the current operations cell and focuses heavily on the integration of air power. The OC/Ts observed how the planning for shaping and deep operations was an ad hoc effort across the division and would often get side tracked or minimized by other tasks. There was a frustrating loss of efficiency and lack of common understanding between the division and subordinate brigades. Upon review of FM 100-15, Corps Operations, from 1996; FM 3-09.22, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, from 2001, and professional articles discussing the DOCC, they provided a good historical perspective, but the reality is that at the division-level the DOCC or similarly purposed organization would need a revised composition and tasks. One of the intents for the DIVARTY described using the DIVARTY fire support cell (FSC) to manage information collection sensors, which is a historical role for the FSC and a great start to the recommendations discussed below, as stated in the DIVARTY White Paper.
What if there was a purpose built cell within the division CP to focus on planning division shaping operations and deep operations and then ensuring their execution? Since both deep operations and shaping operations rely heavily on Fires and Aviation, a total team of approximately 20 to 30 personnel would be optimal. A DOCC-like team could consist of a cell within the division CP that had representation from the division G-2, Fires planners, targeteers, the combat aviation brigade (CAB) and the U.S. Air Force and they focused on the deep fight. This team would be split between two shifts in the division CP that focuses on the deep fight but remain aware of the overall division plan. Further, they would have a robust intelligence and collection management capability to support the required targeting. Through clarifying roles and responsibilities with such a team as the DOCC, the targeting process would become more efficient. The DIVARTY leadership could still monitor Fires at the brigade combat teams (BCT) in support of the division close fight and, through the DOCC, ensure focused effort on deep operations.
FM- 3-09.22, Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Corps Artillery, Division Artillery, and Field Artillery Brigade Operations, provided two short paragraphs on general expectations of the division DOCC, but without any significant depth. A recommendation is that the division use most of the DIVARTY S-2 section and targeting section as the core of the division DOCC. Then include representatives from the aviation brigade, the division Air Missile Defense element, the U.S. Air Force, and the division G-3. This should be the starting point with roughly 20 members in the DOCC led by, at minimum, a lieutenant colonel. This directly supports the intent for the DIVARTY in the words of the recent DIVARTY White Paper, “Providing responsive Fires in support of combat aviation brigade attack operations. Coordinating, integrating and synchronizing unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and other sensors for targeting.”
Tied to the DIVARTY White Paper’s intent to more closely integrate sensors into the DIVARTY targeting, collection management remains an area for improvement and is rightfully a difficult task due to all of the recent technological advances. An observed trend is for subordinate brigades to rely on the division G-2 collection manager for all collection management to mitigate the brigades’ lack of an information collection request process. However, the G-2 collection manager is always overworked, has minimal time in the position, has a team of three or less and has competing collection priorities. Compounding the difficulties with collection management, the OC/Ts observed an obvious lack of comfort and understanding within the brigade staffs of how to leverage and request information collection in direct support of fire support planning and operations. Unfortunately, there was usually not a collection manager on the brigade staff and if there was one designated, they did not understand their responsibilities in the planning process. Further, collection managers did not comprehend their importance in the ‘sensor to shooter’ process and how they facilitate proactively finding and quickly killing an observed target instead of recording the location for future engagement.
What if a non-military intelligence service member served as the collection manager and the team was expanded or there were collection management focused personnel in the DOCC, as well as the division G-2? Based on the operational requirements of near, deep and support operations there is justification to expand the collection management capability, at division, with multiple military occupational specialties (MOS) within the team, especially within the DOCC. Therefore, in a departure from traditional collection managers being only drawn from the intelligence branch, it is logical to now support having both Field Artillery and Aviation personnel performing collection management in addition to the typical G-2 collection managers. Any additional collection managers do not have to all work directly within the G-2, but there should be close ties to ensure a common understanding of the ever changing collection plan. The DIVARTY S-2 should be working the DIVARTY collection manager, to advocate for the use of all collection capabilities for targeting in support of shaping and deep operations. The lack of a dedicated DIVARTY collection manager to advocate for and request collection support through the overall division collection manger, will degrade planning due to the lack of information at the precise time. In addition, the DIVARTY collection manager needs to translate and track the division collection efforts to anticipate indirect fire needs of the shaping operation.
The Intelligence MOS is not the only specialty with the qualities of a good collection manager. Speaking from experience, prime collection manager candidates, beyond the prequisite security clearance, are detail oriented, have acceptable people skills to advocate for collection requirements tied to their unit’s priorities and are willing to seek out information such as sympathetic collection efforts in other organizations or how to correctly request for collection. During one exercise, I observed a Fires brigade realize that though they may not have dedicated collection assets, the brigade staff could reference the division collection plan to access full motion video of a specific UAS looking at locations relevant to their planning. The Brigade referencing the division collection plan resulted in continued forward progress of their planning efforts through their own initiative instead of waiting for division to provide information.
After looking at the manning documents, I recommend that the DIVARTY assistant S-2, a targeting warrant officer, a targeting noncommissioned officer (NCO) and an S-2 Soldier form the collection management team for the DIVARTY and deep operations planning cell. Admittedly, the Army does not have the robust training program and designated career fields as some of the other services. However, the Intelligence Center of Excellence (ICoE) conducts a four-week collection management course titled, The Information Collection Planners Course. The ICoE developed this course in response to the demand for better trained collection managers across the Army. Non-Intelligence MOS Soldiers are welcome to attend the course which is held exclusively at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
Using the four steps of the targeting process, I will discuss some of the observed pitfalls and successes with integrating multiple intelligence disciplines down to the brigade-level.
The first step of the targeting process, Decide, initially relies on intelligence preparation of the battlefield, and specifically information collection, to develop targets based on the enemy situation. Upon receipt of the mission and division commander’s guidance, the Fires, Intelligence and operations staffs will collaborate to determine which targets help the commander reach his end state. The role of the Fires and Intelligence warfighting functions is to collaborate and, through the collection managers within the division, organize all available collection resources to develop and engage targets. In addition to their enemy assessments, produced from order of battle analysis and reporting, both targeteers and intelligence analysts need to have a firm grasp on what collection capabilities, not systems, are available to request.
The observed pitfalls during this step revolve around the units not understanding three processes. First, how to request collection capabilities for target development and engagement. Second, not being aware of the division’s collection dissemination architecture to receive the information. Third, not gaining access to the relevant network based chatrooms used to coordinate collection operations. All of these tasks seem straightforward, however it takes time for the unit to realize they don’t have these processes and then take the steps needed to gain awareness of the collection operations. The result, the unit loses valuable time during the initial planning steps learning administrative processes causing them to miss opportunities to coordinate for or tie into limited collection resources.
When looking at the Detect step I found a great success demonstrated in part of the discussion at a recent Mission Command Training Program (MCTP) Mission Command Training (MCT) between the leadership and staffs of a CAB and a DIVARTY generating a much improved understanding of how-to synchronize the effects of the CAB and the DIVARTY. The discussion was phenomenal, describing the proposed technique, for the DIVARTY, to confirm or deny enemy locations with an UAS coordinated via an instant messenger type chat function. Having this process to utilize the UAS established prior to the exercise or deployment and incorporated into a unit standard operating procedure (SOP) is a great efficiency, and usually the OC/Ts have to prompt units to develop this process over the course of days during the warfighter exercise.
The time savings gained from developing this process early, enables the fire support planners to conduct such operations as suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) in advance of an air assault or a deep strike by the division CAB.
It is the function of targeting to achieve efficiently those objectives within the parameters set at the operational level…”FM 3-60, The Targeting Process
I observed an instance of effective planning to execute joint SEAD 24 hours in advance of a CAB operation which was in fact a division shaping operation. The CAB had a cross forward line of troops (FLOT) interdiction operation with AH-64 Apache helicopters against an enemy armored brigade. Within a few hours, the Fires systems eliminated ten out of 12 confirmed enemy air defense systems, with two systems destroyed by the U.S. Air Force. With a committed firing unit, the fire supporters controlled a dedicated UAS, which flew the route in advance of the AH-64 helicopters, to destroy enemy air defenses and assess battle damage as the UAS flew.
Things in the above vignette went well, and the UAS is convenient, but some limitations to consider are weather impacts to the UAS, as well as the vulnerabilities of the UAS against an enemy air defense network. If the enemy air defenses detected and shot down the UAS before friendly fire support destroyed the enemy systems, what was the backup plan? Would we accept the risk of using old information on the location of enemy systems to fire on targets without observation? Is there redundancy in the collection plan where friendly collection transitions to reliance on ground collection or forward observers of some type? What are the abort criteria for the operation and does the loss of the supporting UAS terminate the operation? Regardless of the UAS limitations, this event validated the current UAS doctrine’s message regarding employment of Fires and Army Aviation.
In looking at the final two steps of the targeting process, of both deliver and assess, the above vignette highlights the prudence to have dedicated shooting systems. This is regardless of the sensor type, as well as planning for the collection of battle damage assessment, preferably before transitioning to the next target. Also, in the absence of having a dedicated UAS, the Fires units need to be flexible enough to tie into other target acquisition assets. This is useful for conducting timely battle damage assessment, as well as confirming the location of a suspected enemy unit.
In conclusion, being adaptable is a trait which we as professionals must embrace in order to anticipate and prioritize future requirements. The incorporation of a DOCC capability into the division CP will enable operational successes through being proactive. Also, complimentary to fire support planning is the growth of a high quality collection management capability through training and selection of capable personnel. Achieving the desired effects on the enemy is inevitable when the Fires and Intelligence warfighting functions have the strong capacity to plan deep operations and effectively collect the required information in support of the targeting process.