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?


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.