Battle at Blackwood Creek

You are the section lead for two F/A-18C aircraft assigned the mission of close air support (CAS) in support of lst Battalion, 5th Marines (1/5). Your loadout is four Mk-83s; 578 rounds of 20mm; one AIM-7; two AIM-9s; and one TFLIR (Targeting – Forward Looking Infrared). Your time-on-station is approximately 45 minutes. In your cockpit you have 1:50,000 charts of the area, and the Air Communications-Electronics Operating Instruction (ACEOI).

1/5 is defending in sector to destroy enemy forces in order to prevent their movement south towards the city of Tropicana. Upon checking in with “Ronbo”, the forward air controller (FAC) for Company A, you are told to hold south of initial point (IP) Chevy at 12,000 feet and given the following situation report:

“We’re defending south of Blackwood Creek at grid AB 123456 (as depicted) and are the main effort for 1/5. Company B is to our west and Company C is to our south. 1/10 is in direct support with an approximate gun-target-line of 010 degs. We are engaging what we believe to be the forward security element of an enemy mechanized rifle regiment (MRR). The enemy is deployed with tanks, BMPs, and dismounted troops. The air defense threat expected is MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defense Systems)-SA-7s, SA-14s, and ZSU234-nothing specific has been observed or reported. Gunfighter 01, a division of Cobras, should be on station in 10 minutes, and Cat 20, a section of AV-Bs, should be on station in 15 minutes. Stand-by for your attack brief…”

From your cockpit you can see the target area. You have identified Blackwood Creek, Alpha Company’s position, what you believe to be Bravo Company’s general position, and what you believe to be the general target area north of Blackwood Creek. There appears to be a great deal of activity in the target area. You can see several burning vehicles and smoke in the battle area. With your FLIR you can acquire but not identify individual vehicles. You inform the FAC that you have “eyes on” the target area. You are given the following attack brief:

1. (IP) Not Required

2. (HDG) Not Required

3. (Dist) Not Required

4. (Elev) 800 feet

5. (Desc) BMPs and troops in the open.

6. (Loc) AB 127477 (as depicted)

7. (Mark) WP

8. (Frnd) South 2,000

9. (Egress) Left pull off target to holding.

TOT 12+00

Remarks: Final attack cone is 260310. Remain above 4,000 feet Expect immediate reattack.

You begin your attack on time, and as you roll in you see multiple vehicles (tanks and BMPs) in the target area and what you believe to be the mark impacting. You call “contact mark” and “wings level” as you sight in on a armored vehicle, but you do not receive a clearance to drop. You hear no comm at all. You establish high cover for your wingman while he is in his delivery pattern, but he does not receive clearance either. While acting as high cover, you receive momentary cockpit indications of a ZSU 23-4 north of the target area. While over the target area, you see a large number of tanks and armored vehicles moving south at approximately 15 kilometers per hour at position 1. You see tanks and armored vehicles that appear to be stationary at positions 2 and 3. You see a tremendous amount of smoke and activity in the vicinity of Alpha Company. After several unsuccessful attempts to regain communications on both the tactical air direction and the tactical air control party-local nets, an unidentified corporal picks up the radio and informs you frantically in colorful language that the FAC and the rest of his party have all been either killed or seriously wounded. He informs you that they are receiving heavy artillery fire, and, although he can’t see a thing through the smoke, he believes that enemy tanks have penetrated their frontline. He begs for assistance. Just then you hear Gunfighter 01 attempting to check in. The situation is developing rapidly. You need to make a decision. What do you do?

Requirement

In a time limit of 1 minute, decide what actions you will take immediately and how you will use your remaining time on station. Then discuss the rationale underlying your decisions. Include a sketch if necessary to clarify your actions. Mail your solution to the Marine Corps Gazette, TDG #98-9, P.O. Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134 or fax it to (703) 640-0823.

Early Party Guests

Situation

You are a flight leader for a flight of eight AV-8 Harriers. Your mission is to support a joint Army/Marine airfield seizure in the nation of Ronway. The plan entails an Army paratroop company drop on the airfield to destroy the antiaircraft weapons surrounding the facility in order to allow a Marine battalion to land in MV-22s and seize it. Your role is to provide air cover for the paratroops.

As you execute the plan, you encounter some air-to-air combat with enemy planes. Two Harriers are hit and eject at the cost of four enemy aircraft destroyed and the remainder driven off. You hold awaiting the arrival of the C-141s with the paratroops, but there is no sign of them. As you are about to leave, you see the MV-22s begin to arrive in the distance. You try to signal them on the radio, but they are not responding. As they make their approach, you decide to suppress the antiaircraft artillery (AAA) (S-60s) sites but are critically low on fuel and only have enough to return. The AAA is now getting the range of the MV-22s and has shot one out of the sky as it attempts to land.

What do you do? Requirement

In the space of 1 minute, develop your response to the situation. Provide a concept of operations and tasking for your remaining aircraft. Include a sketch and rationale for your actions. Submit your solution to the Marine Corps Gazette, TDG #01-5, Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134 or fax 703-630-9147.

For more detailed information on the structure of Marine Corps units, Marine Corps equipment, and symbols used in TDG sketches, see MCG, Oct94, pp. 53-56 and the modification reported in Jan95, p. 5.

Fight or Flight

Situation

You are the section leader of a pair of AH-lW Super Cobras on an armed reconnaissance mission. Each attack helicopter’s weapons load consists of 2 TOW missiles, 2 Hellfire missiles, 7 2.75-inch high-explosive rockets, 7 2.75-inch flechette rockets, and 400 rounds of 20mm ammunition. While engaging an enemy mechanized column, your wingman is brought down by enemy fire just as you launch your last missile. After confirming no one survived the helicopter crash, you discover your helicopter has lost external radio communications and has fallen below the fuel minimums required to safely return to the forward arming and refueling point (FARP).

Trying not to think about the loss of your squadron mates, you task your copilot, Sean “Dirty” Canahal, to navigate the aircraft through the mountainous terrain to the FARP under the most fuel efficient conditions possible. During the 24-kilometer flight to the FARP site it is not until you make a hard turn through one of the mountain passes that a reflection from behind your aircraft catches your eye. The reflection emanates from the canopy of an enemy Ka-50 Hokum attack helicopter. You cannot be sure how long he has been behind you, but you determine that since he has not attacked yet, even though you are in range of his weapons systems, he may have another motive. Is his goal to discover the location of the FARP site? If compromised, the FARP could be attacked/destroyed by enemy artillery, rockets, or aircraft. A successful attack on the FARP would kill several people and destroy aircraft and other equipment.

While you consider options, the following conversation takes place between you and Dirty over the internal communications system.

Dirty: “&#*!%$ Hobbit, I thought we had air superiority. Where did that guy come from?”

Hobbit: “Obviously the enemy is pulling a few wild cards out of the deck. The S-2 never even mentioned those in their air order of battle.”

Dirty: “Without any radio communications we cannot call the Hornets to help us out on this one. The way I see it we have two options: we can try to make it back to the FARP site, hope our fuel lasts until we get there, risk compromising the site, and pray our Stinger man-portable air defense missile bubbas tag this guy, or we can turn, try to engage, and shoot this guy down. If we go that way, assuming we get him in our sites and destroy him, I am sure we will be out of fuel before we make it back to the FARP site.”

You consider his counsel, take a deep breath, and explain your plan to Dirty.

Requirement

In a time limit of 30 seconds, come up with a plan and be prepared to brief it to your copilot.

Draft a mission statement, intent, and a graphic representation of your proposed course of action. Submit your solution to Marine Corps Gazette, TDG #02-5, P.O. Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134, fax 703-630-9147, or e-mail <gazette@mca-marines.org>.

Dumas Sucker Punch

Situation

You are to be the division leader for a mixed flight of two UH-1N Hueys and two AH-1W Cobras conducting aerial interdiction in support of a combined amphibious and heliborne landing. The time is now 1700. L-hour is 0600 tomorrow morning when both the boat and helicopter companies will put “feet ashore.”

Reconnaissance assets report that two ZSU-23-4s have moved onto the Dumas peninsula this afternoon where both companies will insert. The accompanying support structure has been moving ammo to the antiaircraft artillery sites. The enemy is known to have Generation I night, vision devices. No SA-9/13s or reinforcing mechanized infantry have yet crossed the Fajenal Canal onto the peninsula, but they are expected to follow. You are operating off of the LPD of a Marine expeditionary unit in an established fire support area, and the commander, amphibious task force will not exit until 0400.

Forecasted ceilings for tonight are broken at 5,000 feet, wind 045/12. Sunset is 1842; moonset is 2024. Both Cobras are up for TOW; only one is up for Hellfire. Only one Huey has a fully operable Star Safire. No friendlies are ashore and no surface fires are available. The Marine air-ground task force (MAGTF) commander’s priority of fires is air defense, indirect fires, command and control, and then mechanized assets. Your task is to destroy the two ZSU-23-4s to facilitate landing the heliborne force.

Requirement

Within a time limit of 10 minutes, develop an objective area scheme, following offensive air support briefing considerations, that accomplishes the MAGTF commander’s intent. Explain your geometery and weaponeering choices. Provide a sketch of your plan of action and rationale behind it.

Submit your solution to Marine Corps Gazette, TDG #03-11, P.O. Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134, fax 703-630-9147, or e-mail <gazette@mca-marines.org>.

Skirmish at Pheoville

Situation

You are a UH-1N pilot conducting a routine visual reconnaissance mission when the direct air support center (DASC) diverts you to act as an airborne forward air controller, or FAC(A). Your new mission is to support a Marine squad patrol pinned down in an irrigation ditch south of Pheoville, an abandoned village made of wooden structures. The DASC is also diverting fixed-wing close air support (CAS) for your control and passes a call sign and frequency for an artillery battery that is to provide direct support.

You approach the area to the west of Hill 166 and immediately come under small arms fire from a tree line north of the hill. Your door gunner suppresses the fire, and you reposition yourself to the east of Hill 166, where you have a good vantage point overlooking the area. You contact the squad by radio. The squad leader reports he has had no communication since the initial call for help. He indicates the squad is taking fire from Pheoville and the tree line to the west. Due to the intensity of the fire, the squad cannot break contact and is pinned down in the elbow of the ditch just south of Pheoville. The squad leader reports he needs to get to a landing zone to evacuate two wounded Marines. Although the volume of fires from the west is heavier, the squad leader reports the fires from Pheoville are having more effect and if that target is suppressed the squad should be able to break contact.

Your copilot has been busy identifying targets with a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) system. He has identified two BTR-152s, one ZU-23, and at least a squad in Pheoville. On the north side of the western wood, he has identified a bunker that seems to contain a heavy machinegun-possibly a 14.5mm. He also estimates at least a squad in trenches around the bunker. [The location of the inital points (IPs), and the bearing to the three known enemy targets-Phoeville, the bunker position, and the southern troops-are shown on the sketch.] Your wingman lets you know he has contacted Alpha Battery and the battalion air officer for initial liaison. The former reports a maximum ordinate of 5,000 feet. The latter reports no other friendlies in the area. You are given terminal control responsibility.

A section of AV-8Bs and a section of F/A-18s check in on the assigned tactical air direction (TAD) net. The Harriers are carrying four Mk 77 fire bombs each. The Hornets are carrying four Mk 83s each. Each Huey in your section is carrying four 2.75-inch rockets, six 2.75-inch HE, a .50 caliber machinegun, and a 7.62mm minigun. Requirement

In a time limit of 10 minutes, come up with a plan of action. First, describe your overall concept, then provide any reports and support requests. Then provide a brief explanation of your decision. Send your solution to the Marine Corps Gazette, TDG #97-8, P.O. Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134 or fax 703640-0823. For more detailed information on the structure of Marine Corps units, Marine Corps equipment, and symbols used in TDG sketches, see MCG, Oct94, pp. 53-56 and the modification reported in Jan95, p. 5.

Heliborne Assault Gone Bad

by Maj A.J. Graham

Situation

The 28th MEU is ashore in the country of Wasteland conducting counter-terrorist operations against a global network of religious extremists. Today, the BLT and ACE are conducting a heliborne assault into the village of Bad in order to establish a blocking position to deter an enemy attack from both Bad and through Canyon, a nearby valley. An enemy squad occupies the government center adjacent to local soccer fields, which are the primary landing zones.

You are the escort flight lead, leading a mixed section of H-1s on an assault on Bad. You are flying the lead Huey, and your wing is a Cobra. The friendly scheme of maneuver is a three-wave assault of 3 x MV-22s to land a platoon of infantry Marines, secure the government center, establish defensive positions around the village, and posture for follow-on operations. In addition, the infantry platoon has sections of mortars and heavy machine guns attached to the final wave which will be established in the courtyard of the government center once it is secured.

An RQ-7 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) provides route and landing zone reconnaissance during the assault support holding and approach, calling the zone winter. You approve the assaults out of the initial point and take up the overhead support position.

The first wave of three Ospreys takes a volley of RPGs fired during the approach and waves off during the first wave. Mercifully, none of the MV-22s were hit by the RPGs. You lead an attack to suppress the RPG’s point of origin, allowing the first and second waves to land unmolested.

After the attack, you have the following ordnance remaining:

The original plan was to land the first two waves with five minutes of separation. Due to the attack on the first wave and the close air support (CAS) during the second wave, you now have five minutes remaining until your fuel minimums for landing, and it takes 30 minutes to fly back to the base for refueling. The third wave has not launched and will wait for you to escort them; they will not arrive for at least 90 minutes.

Your wingman calls that he has low engine oil pressure, an emergency that requires reducing power on one of the two engines in flight. However, if oil pressure continues to drop, he will have to shut down the engine, which becomes a “land as soon as possible” emergency. Your wingman says he is comfortable flying for another 5 minutes time on station, but he is limited in speed, maneuverability, and standoff since he now has only half the engine power.

The RQ-7 reports a convoy of seven to nine technical vehicles, armed with heavy machine guns, travelling at high speed toward the village. The enemy convoy will arrive in approximately ten minutes. Immediately after this radio call, the FAC “Rocksalt” reports troops in contact again and asks if you are ready for CAS game plan and nine-line attack brief. Taking stock of the situation, you realize the following:

1) You have five minutes time on station before you must fly back to your only source of fuel. In six minutes time, you will be unable to make it back to the FARP.

2) Only half the assault force is at the objective, and they do not have their heavy weapons attachments. The assault force is in a firefight, and their situation is bad enough that it requires air support.

3) Your wingman is in the middle of an in-flight emergency but can provide five minutes of flight time. He can fire the Hellfire missile in his reduced capacity provided you or the RQ-7 can provide laser designation for the missile.

4) Enemy reinforcements are on the way and will arrive five minutes after your time on station ends.

Requirement

1) Accept the airstrike, assuming you can complete it in five minutes?

2) Deny the airstrike, and get your wingman home safely?

3) Do something else entirely?

Include an overlay sketch and provide a brief discussion of your rationale. Submit your solutions by email at gazette@mca-marines.org or to the Marine Corps Gazette, TDG 05-17, Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134. The Gazette will publish solutions in an upcoming issue.