Need for Visual Aircraft Recognition
This chapter provides the causes for the decline in recognition skills in the past, the reasons for visual aircraft recognition today, and an overview of the potential threat. Aircraft are as much a part of the battlefield as tanks and artillery. These aircraft add a vertical dimension and their presence must be accepted and dealt with by every soldier in the field.
On today's battlefield, a soldier must recognize and identify both threat and friendly aircraft. Since there may be many of each type, aircraft recognition training is necessary for every soldier in the combat force.
REASONS FOR VISUAL AIRCRAFT RECOGNITION
Following World War II, the emphasis on visual aircraft recognition declined as a required skill for ground-based weapons crew members. Causes of the decline were —
- The substitution of guided missiles for large antiaircraft guns.
- The assumption that US forces would continue to maintain air superiority.
- The reliance on electronic equipment for aircraft identification as hostile or friendly.
The need for visual aircraft recognition skills has become more critical since —
- An analysis of past military actions shows aircraft losses to air defense guns and small arms.
It has reestablished that the soldier on the ground is capable of inflicting heavy losses on
aircraft operating at low altitudes.
- Continued air superiority over every battlefield is not possible.
- Electronic identification has limitations and small units or individual soldiers
do not always have access to these devices.
- Visual recognition and identification of specific aircraft types and timely reporting provide
the S2 and G2 additional information of a passive nature in the form of early warning,
threat air capability, or information on a possible new tactical situation such
as supply drops, defoliation, or photographic reconnaissance.
The provision of large numbers of AD weapon systems to all divisional and some nondivisional ground combat forces generates additional emphasis on the need for visual aircraft recognition. Crew and team members of these weapon systems depend on visual recognition and identification of aircraft when making engagement decisions. The effectiveness of weapon systems in defeating the low-altitude air threat is directly affected by the skills of the crews and teams in recognition and identification of aircraft.
Air defense personnel follow rules of engagement (ROE). Under one ROE, the right of self-defense against air or ground attack is never denied in peace or war. Air defenders include hostile target criteria, IFF, sensors, and air defense warnings in making their engagement decisions. Additionally, weapon control statuses (WCSs) apply to air defense systems in particular, and may be a part of the supported ground force SOP as well.
WCS sets the degree of control over the firing of air defense weapon systems. During wartime, aircraft are fired on according to the WCS in effect.
The WCSs are —
- WEAPONS FREE. Fire at any aircraft not positively identified as friendly.
- WEAPONS TIGHT. Fire only at aircraft positively identified as hostile according to the prevailing hostile target criteria.
- WEAPONS HOLD. Do not fire except in self-defense. This status may be set in an area in terms of aircraft type and time. For example, “WEAPONS HOLD, rotary wing, 1400 to 1500 hours” only applies to helicopters, and at that time of day.
The breakup of the former Soviet Union and restructuring into the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) does not diminish the fact that thousands of aircraft of many types that were manufactured by the former USSR are in the inventories of potential enemies of the United States and its allies. Additionally, the CIS will maintain standing military forces that include these aircraft.
Aircraft manufactured by friendly countries can also be a threat in some areas of operation. For example, the A-4 Skyhawk and Mirage F1 were in the hands of the Iraqi military during the Persian Gulf War. The current air threat makeup is of various types of aircraft with specific missions to perform. Specific threat information in your area of operation is included in your unit's operation order and tactical SOP.
The following is a brief overview of the threat:
- The major air threat to friendly ground forces in the forward area near the line of contact are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and helicopters. The threat will also consist of low-performance, close air support (CAS), and high-performance (leaker) ground-attack aircraft. These aircraft will conduct reconnaissance, surveillance, interdiction, antiarmor, and troop support missions.
- Elements in the division and corps rear areas, especially nuclear-capable units, command and control, logistics facilities, and reserve forces can expect repeated attacks by high-performance aircraft. Fighter-bombers and ground-attack aircraft will also be used to attack convoys.
- Expect attacks in the early morning. Pilots are rested and their aircraft are readied for the first sortie of the day. The danger of attack increases again near noon and in the early evening. However, surveillance for threat aircraft is a 24-hour mission. The enemy's order of battle, combat capability, readiness, and will to fight are some of the factors that will determine the times and rates of sorties.
- Members of the ground forces should understand that while an aircraft may be hostile, not all hostile aircraft are a direct threat. For example, an interceptor or high-flying reconnaissance aircraft is of little or no threat when compared with UAVs, helicopters, or CAS aircraft.
- Threat interceptor aircraft are normally given the mission of countering friendly aircraft on approaches, flanks, and beyond the maximum range of forward area air defense weapon systems. These hostile aircraft will seldom enter the engagement range since their normal operating altitudes are suitable only for air combat. Additionally, high-flying reconnaissance aircraft are not normally within the engagement range.
27 January 2008
||Born on 13 June 2000