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Close air support (CAS)

Definition

Close air support (CAS) refers to air action conducted by fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft against hostile targets near friendly forces. The primary objective of CAS is to provide direct assistance to ground troops by attacking enemy positions, vehicles, or personnel. CAS requires detailed coordination and communication between air and ground units to minimize the risk of friendly fire incidents.

Key Takeaways

  1. Close air support (CAS) refers to air missions in which aircraft provide direct assistance to ground forces, often in the form of firepower and surveillance, targeting enemy positions and enhancing the mobility and effectiveness of friendly troops.
  2. CAS operations require extensive coordination between air and ground units, with effective communication and information sharing being of utmost importance to ensure timely and accurate deployment of support while minimizing the risk of accidental friendly casualties.
  3. Various types of aircraft can be utilized in CAS missions, including fighter jets, bombers, helicopters, and UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). Each aircraft possesses unique capabilities, making them suitable for different combat scenarios and deployment tactics.

Importance

Close air support (CAS) is a crucial aspect of military operations, as it directly influences the outcome of ground engagements by providing coordinated and targeted aerial firepower to assist friendly ground forces.

CAS plays a vital role in enhancing the overall combat effectiveness, survivability, and maneuverability of ground troops.

By offering timely and precise airpower, it enables ground units to advance and maintain pressure on hostile forces, alleviating enemy resistance, and suppressing potential threats.

Moreover, CAS offers essential reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities, allowing ground commanders to gain critical insights into enemy movements and positions.

These benefits make CAS an indispensable component of modern warfare, contributing significantly to the success of military campaigns and ensuring the protection of friendly forces.

Explanation

Close air support (CAS) serves as a critical component in modern military operations to achieve tactical and strategic objectives. Its purpose is to provide direct support to friendly ground forces, specifically those engaged with hostile troops or encountering other threats. The primary goal of CAS is to empower ground troops by offering aerial firepower, real-time reconnaissance, and improved situational awareness, often tipping the balance in favor of the supported force.

Coordinated execution of CAS missions is crucial in promoting the joint-force concept, fostering cooperation between air and ground components, while minimizing the risk of friendly fire incidents. The utilization of CAS addresses diverse challenges faced by ground forces. For instance, CAS can dismantle heavily fortified enemy positions, neutralize mobile targets, or even effectively counter threats that might hinder mission success.

Air assets employed in CAS missions include fixed-wing aircraft, attack helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles, providing precise, timely, and overwhelming firepower. These aerial platforms offer an extended operational reach and enhanced flexibility, enabling a rapid response to evolving ground scenarios. Furthermore, CAS enhances the maneuverability and survivability of ground forces by enabling rapid engagement of targets beyond the visual range of ground troops, relieving pressure on ground forces and allowing them to advance in difficult and uncertain situations.

Ultimately, the effective implementation of CAS in military operations reinforces the synergy between air and ground forces, ensuring mission success and protection of friendly forces.

Examples of Close air support (CAS)

Operation Anaconda (2002): During the early stages of the US-led war in Afghanistan, close air support played a critical role in Operation Anaconda. This operation involved US and Afghan forces aiming to clear the Shahi-Kot Valley of Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters. A-10 Thunderbolts, AC-130 gunships, and other aircraft provided vital CAS to ground troops, enabling them to maneuver effectively against enemy positions. The air support allowed US and Afghan forces to achieve their objectives and ensure the overall success of the mission.

Battle of Marawi (2017): The Philippine military’s fight against the ISIS-affiliated Maute Group in the city of Marawi is another recent example of CAS in action. The Philippine Air Force (PAF) utilized attack helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft to provide crucial support to ground forces. The CAS missions included air-to-ground attacks and the delivery of precise, well-timed airstrikes that helped dislodge the militants from their entrenched positions. This collaboration between air and ground units proved instrumental in the eventual liberation of Marawi City.

Battle of Kobani (2014-2015): During the Syrian Civil War, the town of Kobani became a focal point in the conflict between the Islamic State (ISIS) and Kurdish fighters, primarily the YPG (People’s Protection Units), along with other rebel factions. US-led coalition aircraft, such as F-16s and A-10 Warthogs, provided crucial close air support to the Kurdish forces, targeting ISIS positions and supply routes. The CAS was vital in stopping the ISIS advance and eventually forcing the terrorist organization to retreat from the area. The successful use of CAS significantly changed the course of the battle and prevented the fall of Kobani to ISIS.

FAQ: Close Air Support (CAS)

What is Close Air Support (CAS)?

Close Air Support (CAS) is a military action in which aircraft provide direct assistance to ground forces in combat. CAS involves engaging enemy targets in close proximity to friendly forces, often to help ground troops advance or protect their position.

What types of aircraft are typically used for CAS?

Various types of aircraft, including fighter jets, attack helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), can be utilized for CAS. The primary focus of these aircraft is to engage and neutralize enemy targets while minimizing damage to friendly forces.

What is the role of the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) in CAS?

In CAS missions, the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) serves as the critical liaison between ground forces and the aircraft providing air support. The JTAC communicates with both parties, identifying target locations, coordinating attack plans, and ensuring that friendly forces are not endangered during the operation.

How are CAS missions coordinated?

CAS missions require extensive coordination between ground forces, pilots, and command centers. Before initiating a CAS mission, a detailed plan is developed, including target identification, attack timing, and approach strategies. This plan is then communicated to all relevant parties to ensure a smooth and effective operation.

How has CAS evolved over time?

Close Air Support has significantly evolved over time due to advancements in technology, tactics, and coordination techniques. Modern CAS capabilities include precision-guided munitions, advanced aircraft, and improved communication systems, enabling more precise and effective air support in a wide range of combat scenarios.

Related Military Operation Terms

  • Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC)
  • Airborne Forward Air Controller (FAC-A)
  • Call for Fire (CFF)
  • Fire Support Coordination Measures (FSCM)
  • Targeting Pod

Sources for More Information